Here is my newest doll photo story based on the 1964-68 TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which starred Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. This one is considerably shorter than my last story with Napoleon featured much more than any previous story. I hope you enjoy it.
The White Swan Affair
Early December 1966
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A lone man leans against the railing of a pedestrian bridge, lost in thought, the only light the glowing end of his cigarette. (thinking) Tomorrow...finally – freedom! It's really happening after so many years of pain...and loss. He turns away from the railing: What was that?
A short distance away in the deep shadows near the bridge entrance someone watches the man, careful to stay well hidden. (pzippth! pzippth! - the sound of a gun silencer, followed by running footsteps) On the bridge the man contemplating his freedom now lies sprawled on the pavement.
Act I – Grand Adage
Illya Kuryakin's Apt., New York
2 Days Later, 6 AM
(sound of his U.N.C.L.E. communicator)
Illya Kuryakin (IK): Kuryakin here. Yes, sir, understood. I'll be right in.
Tatyana Petrova (TP): What was that about?
IK: I have to go in to work.
TP: At 6 in the morning? On a Saturday??
IK: I'm sorry, but that's the nature of my work.
TP: I know, but I was hoping we'd be able to have a nice weekend together without any interruptions.
IK: I guess that's not meant to be this week. (tenderly) Now, stop tempting me and go get dressed. I'm making us some tea and toast. I've got to leave very soon.
JFK Airport, New York
later that morning
Napoleon Solo (NS): You got a call this morning too?
IK: Yes, I did. I didn't expect to see you here. Body guard assignment?
NS: Yeah, mine's a ballerina defecting from Warsaw. What's yours?
IK: Mine is a Russian author on the next flight from Amsterdam.
NS: The ballerina is on the flight coming in from Paris, one gate over from your Russian author. I'd better head over there. They'll both be here soon. Talk to you later.
IK: Evgeny Kuznetsov?
Evgeny Kuznetsov (EK): Yes.
IK: I'm Illya Kuryakin from the U.N.C.L.E. I'll be handling your security here in New York for a few weeks until we can be sure there will be no further attempts on your life.
EK: I'm happy to meet you, Mr. Kuryakin. Even though I want to practice my English, it is nice to hear a familiar accent.
IK: Please call me Illya. There is no need for formality. You are a writer?
EK: Yes, but my point of view is very unpopular with the government at home. That is why I have been trying to come here for many years. (pointing to his crutch) It seems that someone didn't want me to make it here.
IK: We have a safe apartment ready for you. As soon as we get your luggage, we'll go there.
NS: Pardon me miss, are you Milena Janowicz?
Milena Janowicz (MJ): Yes, I am. And you are?
NS: Napoleon Solo, at your service. I'm from the U.N.C.L.E. I will be providing security for you until you are settled here in New York. Another person coming here recently in similar circumstances was assaulted before leaving Europe and we want to make sure you're safe.
MJ: Oh, my, how awful! Are you sure I will be safe here?
NS: I will guard you with my life, Miss Janowicz. I understand that arrangements have been made for you to stay with several dancers from the ballet company at their apartment.
MJ: Yes, that is correct. Please get my luggage and take me there.
ACT II - Danseuse
2 days later, the ballerinas' apartment
NS: Good morning, ladies! Is Milena ready to go?
Roommate #1: She left for the ballet studio about a half hour ago. Took a cab; said she needed to get to rehearsal early. And she has a costume fitting today too.
NS: (surprised and frustrated) I've already discussed this with her. It's too soon for her to be taking off on her own like that. Have either of you seen anyone or anything unusual around the building or the neighborhood since Milena came?
Roommate #2: Yeah, yesterday I saw a guy on the sidewalk and in the alley who looked like he was watching our building. I'd never seen him around before.
NS: Can you describe him?
Roommate #2: Tall, blond, that's about all I could tell.
NS: OK, thanks.
NS: Excuse me, can you tell me where Milena Janowicz might be?
Ballerina: I think she's in the costume department on the third floor for a fitting. You can't miss it.
MJ: Good morning, Napoleon! Well, what do you think? Will I make a beautiful white swan?
NS: Yes, of course, but you must take your safety seriously, Milena. I can't protect you if you won't cooperate. You shouldn't have come here on your own this morning. Have you noticed a tall, blond man in the building who doesn't work here?
MJ: No, should I?
NS: Just let me know right away if you do.
MJ: I will. Napoleon, I appreciate you taking my safety so seriously, but, really, I think you're too concerned. I'll be fine. I need to get to rehearsal now. Don't worry, I'll be sure that you take me home tonight.
Napoleon leaves the costume department and heads for the stairwell at the end of the hall. He hears a rehearsal room door open and sees a man also going to the nearby stairwell door – a tall, blond man trying to keep his face hidden by his coat collar! As the man reaches the stairs and the door closes, Napoleon breaks into a run to try to catch up with him. Even though he's moving so fast down the stairs his feet barely touch the steps, he hears the ground floor stairwell door close seconds before he gets there. He sees the alley door at the end of the hall open with only the man's leg and foot still visible. By the time Solo is in the alley, the man is long gone.
NS: (thinking) I better go to that newsstand down the block and get plenty of reading material. It'll give me something to do after I re-check the ballet company building. I'm going to need to stay close to Milena. That man must have been the one her roommate saw yesterday.
IK: Are you getting settled here in New York, Evgeny?
EK: Oh, yes, it is like a dream come true. Illya, you don't know how long I've waited for this – this freedom!
IK: Well, you've only been here a few days. Don't forget you were shot less than a week ago. I'll be guarding you for the next two weeks, until we can feel certain you're safe.
EK: That is fine. I enjoy the companionship of someone from home. It is only the government at home that I disagree with, not the country, not the people. I hope that someday I can go home. But for now, everything is going so well for me here. New York University has asked me to read selections from my most recent book at the campus in two weeks. And, I was told if all goes well, I will be offered a position as a visiting professor!
IK: Pozdravlyayu! (Congratulations!)
Act III - Danseur
U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters, New York
2 weeks later
IK: Last day for protection detail, Napoleon. How has yours gone?
NS: Very quietly, nothing out of the ordinary since the initial concern about a man watching Milena and her apartment a few weeks ago. I've learned more about ballet productions than I ever thought I would though. How have things been with the author?
IK: Very quiet as well. My security detail officially ends tonight after I see that he gets to his apartment safely after he has his reading at NYU.
NS: I'm taking Milena out for a nice dinner tonight to celebrate her freedom and ask her if I can see her again now that I won't be guarding her.
IK: Napoleon, I don't think it's a good idea to become emotionally involved with a woman you've been guarding. I speak from personal experience. Remember the woman I was guarding two years ago?
NS: Yes, but I don't think Milena and I will turn out like that. It's too late anyway. I already care a lot about her.
NYU Lecture Hall
EK: Good evening. I am Evgeny Kuznetsov. I have recently left my homeland so that I may have the freedom to write without fear of retribution for my ideas. I love my country and its people, but not the current government. Maybe someday I will be able to return. When I arrived in New York I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my books are quite popular here. New York University asked me if I would be willing to read selected excerpts from my most recent book and have a discussion about it with an audience. I am very pleased to do this, so let's get started!
A very nice, cozy restaurant near NYU
NS: I'm glad your roommate recommended this restaurant, Milena. It's very nice; I've never eaten here before. Would you like for me to order some wine while we look at the menu?
MJ: (a bit nervously) Yes, that would nice, Napoleon.
NS: (with a warm smile) The time I've been your bodyguard has gone by quickly. I've certainly learned more about ballet than I ever expected I would. I've enjoyed getting to know you too – I really don't want it to end. Now that my assignment guarding you is over, may I see you socially, on a date, as we say here?
MJ: (smiling)Yes, I'd like that very much. I've become very fond of you, Napoleon.
NS: I'm glad to hear that. With the holidays coming up so soon, maybe we can get together tomorrow, look at the decorations around the city, go ice skating, something like that. I could come by your apartment and help you and your roommates put up a Christmas tree.
Milena tries to hide her face from Napoleon as she starts to cry quietly.
NS: Milena, what's wrong? Did I say something that upset you?
MJ: No...no, Napoleon. I was just suddenly feeling – how do you say in America? - homesick. This will be my first holiday away from my family in Poland and I miss them so much. I'm OK now. Please excuse me. I need to go to the ladies room to freshen up.
NS: Of course.
Act IV - Coda
EK: Yes, the gentleman five rows back on the end – what's your question?
Suddenly there is the sound of the heavy door at the back of the lecture hall opening and three gunshots in rapid succession. Just as quickly, the shooter is gone. As pandemonium breaks out in the room, Illya makes a quick check that no one was hit and runs out into the hall. The only person he sees is a woman running, turning at the next hallway. By the time he reaches the hall leading to the entrance of the building, he sees the woman running out the door. It's Milena! He shouts her name, but in her panic she doesn't hear him and continues running out of the building, into the street. As she runs into the street, she glances over her shoulder to see if Illya has caught up to her. She doesn't see the car barreling toward her. The driver, laughing and talking to his passengers, doesn't see her either.
In the nearby restaurant, Napoleon could hear all the commotion going on outside. He rushes out to the street where he sees there's been an accident. And Illya is already there – why? He quickly makes his way through the gathering crowd.
NS: Milena!! NO....NO!!!
IK: I'm so sorry, Napoleon.
NS: How could this happen? What's going on?
IK: I don't know everything, but I can tell you what led up to this. Let's go over here, away from the crowd, so we can talk.
Mr. Waverly's Office
3 days later
Alexander Waverly (AW): Mr. Solo, I'm terribly sorry your assignment ended so tragically. We've gathered a good deal more information in the last few days to help us piece everything together. Milena Janowicz was a Polish ballerina, but not an actual defector. Mr. Kuznetsov's government has been trying for years to keep him from leaving their country. When they realized that he was going to make it to the US, they decided to silence him once and for all.
Working with Miss Janowicz's government, they recruited her to assassinate him by threatening her family in Poland. The tall, blond man you and her roommate saw a few weeks ago was her handler, sent to the US to see that she didn't lose her nerve to go through with the assignment. She was also the one who shot Mr. Kuznetsov on the pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam a few days before they came to the US. Rather than her roommate, she picked out the restaurant you took her to Friday night specifically because it was close to NYU. She probably felt that Mr. Kuznetsov's talk at NYU that evening was her best chance to shoot him again.
Mr. Solo, I understand you will be taking some vacation time during the upcoming holidays. I hope it will be a restorative break for you. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I have a meeting at the United Nations this afternoon and should be leaving soon.
NS: What happened Friday night shouldn't have happened at all. I could have stopped it. I could have seen that her family made it to a safe place. Why didn't she tell me? She'd still be alive!
IK: She was afraid, Napoleon, mostly for her family back in Poland. She had no idea how much influence U.N.C.L.E. has around the world. She didn't know you could help.
Have you decided where you're going?
NS: No, just far away, someplace that won't remind me of Milena or ballet or security details.
IK: I'm sorry things turned out like this. I hope you'll be starting to feel better in January.
Post Script: In keeping with the ballet theme, the act titles in this story are taken from the parts of a grand pas de deux ballet. Illya's girlfriend, Tatyana Petrova, was introduced in the first story on my blog, Liaison With the Past (11/20/08). And, yes, Tatyana is being played by a different doll this time.
©Marianne T. Smith