Going Postal 3: The Home For the Holidays Affair
Hopefully you will get this and not roll over on it and lose it in the bedcovers for the maid to discover at a later date. I was hoping to talk to you before having to catch my flight, but you were sleeping so soundly, I just couldn’t wake you. Just wondering, did you used to suck your thumb as a child? And, no, I won’t explain myself.
As Waverly explained yesterday, I’m winging my way to Papeete to follow up on that rocket lead from the Deep Water channel. Do you remember that affair? Even though we shut down the project, Mr. Waverly is concerned. There were several communiques between Emory Partridge and a gentleman by the name of Gilbert Valtierra of Papeete proper. It may be nothing, but I’ve spent a long time trusting and seeing the Old Man’s hunches play out.
Mr. Valtierra owns a large tract of land on Bora Bora which used to house a military complex during World War II. There were some heavy artillery guns that were used to protect the only natural break in the reef around the island and, if those guns were brought to bear on incoming ships, well, it might also work with rockets. Mr. Waverly is concerned and when he’s bothered, so am I.
With any luck, this will be nothing more than a quick check around and then I will be back on the plane. I was hoping we’d have Thanksgiving together, but now it looks as if Christmas might be a safer bet.
Good luck with your own assignment. I envy you sticking around in the Islands for a while. Do you know Santa comes to good little Hawaiian girls and boys in a double hulled canoe? Perhaps you will find something special in your stocking Christmas morning. With any luck, it might be me.
Order a drink and a plate of wahoo for me at the Kona Inn. I will be eating it with you in spirit. Talk to you soon.
Miss you already, Napoleon
Yes, of course I remember the Affair. You were attending an UNCLE conference—in some obscure backwater in Central America, wasn't it? If memory serves, there was a great deal of cloak and dagger employed by UNCLE in an effort to conceal the true nature of the conference. Something about long-range missiles? I seem to recall several suspicious deaths among the conference attendees as well. You were lucky to escape with your skin intact.
But how does that Affair connect to the recent developments in Bora Bora, and more importantly, why is Waverly so concerned? I will admit that the THRUSH connection is troublesome, and Valtierra's desire to guard access to an island already surrounded by a ring of impenetrable coral reefs is certainly suspicious, but I cannot see how it bears any relation to Deep Water. The man might simply be a recluse. Then again, Waverly's instincts are the stuff of legend. Perhaps the matter warrants further investigation.
Events are unfolding here in Hawaii as well. I do not wish to alarm you, but I had a visit this afternoon from my old superior in the KGB, General Maksimov. It seems I am being “loaned out” to Moscow on a mission for my former employers. Waverly protested the posting, but the contract UNCLE signed in order to acquire my services is very specific. In the end, there was nothing he could do to prevent it.
General Maksimov has assured me that this reassignment is only temporary, and I have no reason to distrust him. The General was exceedingly helpful in smoothing the way for me to join UNCLE, after all. Still, I find the timing suspicious, and my handlers have provided me no details of this supposed “assignment.” It is prudent to remember that, with the KGB, nothing is ever what it seems.
My flight leaves in just under three hours. I will try to write when I can, but I expect any letters will be relentlessly redacted by the censors. While we are free of their prying eyes, let me say one more time that I miss you with all my heart. I never thought that a twin bed could feel so empty.
PS: You could have woken me. Honestly, I would not have minded.
Как ты? Я в порядке.
Maybe that will get them off our backs for a while. I won’t tell you how distressed I was to receive your letter. I can only pray that you will be safe. Common sense tells me that you have tucked a few helpers along for the ride. Please, please adjust your tie tack so that it is straight. You know how crooked you tend to keep it. Perhaps that one that I gave you a couple Christmases ago for luck?
I am trying to keep my mind on this assignment, but I find my mind and thoughts drifting East. It was simple enough to secure work on a freighter here. I have enough nautical ability and French, accent trouble, indeed. One of my fellow sailors asked me if I came from Paris because my accent was so good. Yes, I am being glib to hide my concern.
You were partially right about the assignment, but think California, not Central America. That makes Waverly’s concern more insidious. That such an undertaking could have occurred on foreign soil is one thing. Here in the good old U.S., the land of the free, it's entirely different.
It’s probably nothing, but I remember getting cement from Vladivostok while at the hotel. I thought it was odd that a freighter tied up there, but was assured it was par for the course. Now I wonder.
I have spoken with several of the locals about Mr. Valtierra and even flashed around a photo of Farraquey. A very nice young lady with very nice attributes informed me that she knew Farraquey quite well. I smelled a rat, or perhaps, a bird, when she invited me to her home for dinner. I have alerted Waverly and requested backup. How I wish it was you at my side, my friend.
It would seem that we are destined to be on opposite ends for the world for the foreseeable future. Would it be all right to sing Blue Christmas, if I do it in French?”
Please, please keep your head down and the channel open, yangu upendo. Napoleon
I am fine. I hope you are well, too, and that work is keeping you busy.
Moscow is exactly as I remember it, although I have not had much opportunity to explore since arriving. We are having a warm spell here. I was in shirtsleeves yesterday, if you can believe it! Just as well, as my blazer has mysteriously disappeared, along with my cufflinks and tie pin. Perhaps the valet they have assigned to me has sent everything out to be cleaned. He is quite efficient, and rarely leaves my side.
It appears I will have to brush up on my musical skills, as I have been assigned to replace the rehearsal accompanist for the Soviet Red Army Men's Chorus. The previous accompanist, a loyal comrade by the name of Sergei Grinkov, died under tragic circumstances—he was struck by a tram while crossing Kuznetsky Most. His body XXX XXXXXXXX, XXX XX XXXXX XXXX XXX XXX XXX.
The Red Army Chorus is scheduled to embark on an international tour next month—London, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Madrid, and so forth. We currently are rehearsing Malenkov's powerful Anthem to the Workers of the Socialist Collective, and Borsky's The Glorious Wheat Harvest. Both works are patriotic in nature, and notable for their extensive use of brass and percussion. In my mind's eye, I can almost see the sheaves of wheat marching.
So you are to be a sailor on a French vessel? I have no doubt of your nautical skills, Napoleon, but I shudder whenever I think of your terrible French accent, despite what your fellow workers may say to flatter you. Please try not to confuse à toute vitesse with moteurs inverses.
Will you be having turkey for Thanksgiving, or some other kind of bird? In any case, best of luck with your cooking. I look forward to comparing notes upon my return.
Yours, Illya Nickovetch
Okay, let’s ratchet up the panic just a bit with the fact that your letter arrived censored. I know your valet has become your new bestest friend for reasons other than friendship.
Neither of us are naïve or stupid. I can’t believe that a better rehearsal accompanist could not be found in all of the Soviet Union. I know it’s impossible for you to write freely and hope that all will be well.
My rendezvous with that young Farraquey-recognizing miss was a dead end, literally. I’m sure there are people who will miss her. Since she attempted to poison me, I am not one of them. Thankfully, Waverly sent Mr. Andrews, a senior agent I know well, and trust almost as much as you. He was the one who alerted me to the Hippobroma longiflora—poison. They call it Madam Fate here. It’s quite nasty and I was beholden to him.
I am currently on the HMS Bobcat. I thought it an odd name for a ship, until a bit of digging uncovered that the Bobcat was the code name given to the US presence in Tahiti and on Bora Bora during World War II. They certainly went through a lot of cement here, building all those reinforced air strips and heavy duty rocket pads.
They are up to something, but I cannot tip my hand anymore than to say, reading between the lines is important. Perhaps you would like to enjoy my letter more with a cup of strong Russian tea and plenty of lemon juice.
I miss you more and more as the days go on and I am reminded of our Christmas plans. I fear that those are all dashed and the nights are all dotted with disappointment.
Did you know there are no poisonous snakes or insects in French Polynesia? Or that there is no B in the Tahitian alphabet. They do, however, have several words for water, rain, and love.
Ua here vau ia oe, Napoleon
I have settled into my new job with minimal difficulty. The Red Army Chorus, which is comprised entirely of soldiers, is exceptionally good, and my piano skills are improving daily. I still do not know why I was chosen for this assignment—surely there are many more qualified pianists in Moscow. Nevertheless, I accept my role as it has been given, and will do my best.
We rehearse at the Bolshoi Theater which, coincidentally, is just down the street from KGB Headquarters. Rehearsals take up most of the day, as the conductor is a strict taskmaster, dissatisfied with anything less than perfection. After rehearsal, I enjoy reading your letters over a cup of strong tea. You were right, by the way—the addition of lemon juice greatly improves the flavor of the experience, not to mention my comprehension at the end of an exhausting day. Thank you for the suggestion.
I am gratified to hear that you survived the attempt on your life. Ingesting Hippobroma longiflora is an agonizing way to die. Please extend my thanks to Mr. Andrews on his keen observational skills. And try to be more careful in the future, Napoleon. I should very much like to find my partner alive upon my return.
As to your ship, I confess to being a bit puzzled. You mentioned in your previous letter that the vessel was French, and yet you classify it as an HMS, an indication of British origin. Your comments on Bora Bora were interesting as well. I can only take your word for the amount of cement that must have been required to create all those WWII landing strips and rocket pads, but the description certainly is at odds with my mental image of the islands as a place of unspoiled natural beauty. I imagine the bird life is colorful and varied, much like those species recently identified in Hawaii. I would very much like to hear more about it. Perhaps you can describe some of your more memorable sightings in your next letter.
Until then, I will apply myself to the concrete task at hand, in the hopes that I may do some good.
Most Sincerely, Illya Nickovetch
I cannot believe how much time has passed between letters. I am hoping that you are keeping well and not planning a career as a pianist!
I was forced to jump ship after discovering the first ship to be overrun with nasty birds. There were more than I could handle. There was an opening on the British vessel, which is about as British as I am. At least we make islandfall in Vaitape on a regular basis. We seem to be transporting a great number of very interesting and seemingly unrelated items—unrelated unless you take into account recent advances made in chemistry and physics.
There is some concern as to what all of these items put together might create, but we are looking into it, and that seems to be enough to scare them off. To permanently stop them, we would need a direct blow. To that end, we have contacted the French Foreign Office to see about the appropriate steps to take, since Bora Bora is technically French territory. You know how niggly they get about us over-stepping our boundaries.
I have spoken with my uncle about my findings and it would seem that additional attention is needed.
However, for one reason or another, quite possible due to my little tete-a-tete with the former Bird Queen, it is deemed necessary for me to return stateside and have Mr. Andrews continue in my stead.
By the time you read this, I will be winging my way back to New York, via Los Angeles. I will be sure to give the movie stars your highest regards.
I am glad that you found my recent advice dotted and your hopes not dashed. It is advice that will enable you to stay healthy and safe until your shoes are again pointed to the West. Is there any change in your own travel plans? The date grows closer and my anxiety continues unabated.
I miss your kibbitzing more and more these days. I have a feeling if you had been here, the fireworks would have started a week ago, both on and off the job. Every day I eagerly await word that you are being returned to the UNCLE—North office to fulfill the remainder of your duties and obligations to UNCLE and to me. Remember, superior officer by two years.
Skynda dig hem (Hurry home)! Napoleon
How good to hear from you at last! I have not received any mail in several weeks, and I feared that my handlers were keeping your letters from me.
I am gratified to hear that you survived your run-in with those birds. The whole thing sounds terribly Hitchcockian. Tell me, did you happen to run across a Partridge in your travels? Or perhaps an Egret or a Raven? I hear they are commonplace in that part of the world.
I am well enough, although I think it unlikely that I will be switching careers anytime soon. However, my superiors seem pleased with my performance, so that is something, I suppose. My work with the Red Army Chorus is rewarding, although the singers remain patently unsociable despite my most charming attempts to engage them in conversation. I suspect they have been warned not to associate with me.
Since there is little incentive to socialize, I spend a great deal of time pouring over the few journals I was allowed to bring with me. Reading my journals—and of course, your letters—with a hot cup of tea and a wedge of lemon is a source of solace to me on these lonely winter nights.
I should mention that the weather in Moscow has turned bitterly cold, literally overnight. When I woke this morning, there were icicles on the radiator in the flat I share with Comrade Ovetchkin.
And now the best news of all! In two short weeks, the Red Army Chorus will be performing at the United Nations in New York City. The performance, to benefit Unicef, is intended to present our great Soviet State as a land of culture, generosity and progress. The concert will serve as the first stop on the group's international tour. Since a rehearsal accompanist will no longer be needed at that point, I presume that I will be released from my obligations and allowed to return to UNCLE at that time. Perhaps I shall be back in my old apartment by Christmas after all.
They are calling us back into rehearsal now, so I must go. Please take care of yourself, and be sure to remember me to your uncle.
It seems odd to have you finally in New York and me stuck in Los Angeles. I had hoped to catch a plane back to the East Coast by now, but between THRUSH and the holiday rush, I may well not get there until New Year’s Eve!
I am hoping that this letter will find you uncensored and free to think American again. Mr, Waverly has been reticent about discussing your situation, merely contending that it is the repayment of an old favor and obligation. He insists that you will be released from your current assignment post haste and will soon be returning to active duty with UNCLE. I am sure Section Two will be the better for it.
As for the situation in Bora Bora—Closer investigation showed that THRUSH has been using substandard cement, origins unknown wink, wink to construct missile silos at the old military base on the islands. Locals were told it was a beautification project and willing went along. It was only when we checked with French authorities that we discovered that they had no knowledge of the project.
THRUSH was intent upon launching a series of missiles at the US, Asia, Australia and the USSR before ditching the site and heading off to points unknown. By the time any government would have had time to respond, THRUSH would be gone. The plot even went further in that it was going to launch different missiles at different countries, a Soviet missile at the US, an American rocket at China and Japan. Even without the loss of life, the damage to the relationships between the countries would have been devastating. THRUSH would then move in as a world power while chaos crippled the other governments. It was devious, to say the least.
UNCLE was able to get in there and sabotage the silos before any launches, but only at the cost of an agent’s life. Phillip wasn’t as fast as you, and didn’t out-run the blast. What Waverly didn’t know, or perhaps he did, was that Phillip had just gotten back a report that he had stomach cancer. This was to be his last mission. At least he died doing the world a great service.
Mr. Andrew’s body was released to us as part of the goodwill gesture THRUSH likes to make at this time of year. If Waverly hadn’t pulled me out so fast, I might have been able to save him from the blast. However nothing would have saved him from that insidious disease. I know some people would argue that suicide is the coward’s way out, but in this case, I don’t think so.
It is hard to face this sort of loss at this time of the year. I don’t know why it should be so intimate and intense simply because of a date on the calendar, but the blows seem of a double intensity as of late. I know it is something we all face, but it doesn’t make the reality of Phillip’s death any easier.
I am heading to the airport now to try and beg, borrow, or lie my way onto a flight bound for New York.
Soon, my friend, I hope to wish you Merry Christmas in person.
Avec tout mon couer, Napoleon
Your safety is music to my ears, although I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I did not know Andrews well, but he seemed a good man. He chose his own exit from this life, a luxury most of us will never have. For that, I envy him.
I am relieved to know that THRUSH's plot to fire their missiles was once again thwarted. Will they never give up?
Napoleon, I fear something is terribly wrong here. I am being shadowed, but not by the usual KGB agents. My room is bugged of course, but the transmitter I discovered this morning is of a type and complexity beyond the abilities of any government. Frankly, the thing has THRUSH technology written all over it. I have no idea what it all means, but just in case, I'm sending this letter via an old Swedish friend, Annika Malenström, in order to avoid the censors. She has promised to deliver it to you in person.
Rehearsal will be starting in an hour, and there is a book I need to pick up before it begins.
In Haste, Illya
Good morning, Mr. Solo.
By now you will have been informed that your precious partner is missing. The Russians think he is AWOL, but they are mistaken. Kuryakin was kidnapped. I know because I have him. You can tell Waverly that his plan to send him to the bosom of the KGB for protection has failed utterly. Your lover is alive for now—more or less—but whether he stays that way is, of course, up to you.
You're wondering about the terms? Simple. I want the contents of File 40, and I want you to get it for me. Don't bother insulting my intelligence with excuses—a microdot will pass your security scans without tripping the alarm. You have two days to meet my demands. Cooperate, and your little paramour will be restored to you, undamaged. Refuse, and I'll send him back to you in little pieces, starting with his balls.
Incidentally, it would be a shame if everyone at UNCLE found out about your, shall we say, proclivities. Should the information become public, it would almost certainly destroy your career. UNCLE is tolerant, but I doubt they would accept such deviant behavior in their CEA. Consider that an added incentive to comply with my demands.
Please put on the enclosed tie pin. It will allow me to monitor your whereabouts and listen to your conversations. When you have the microdot, I'll contact you with further instructions.
Two days, Mr. Solo. Do not disappoint me.
Dr. Cassandra Egret
(To be continued in Going Postal 4: The File 40 Affair. )