Napoleon and Illya landed in Flagstaff, AZ and headed out toward Williams a small community 30 miles west along Route 66. Two agents, Halfax and Billings, were killed following up a Thrush lab, information retrieved by agents on another assignment.
"Why would they have taken a room this far away from Flagstaff, Napoleon?" The known location was to the east of Flagstaff not west. This makes no sense."
"I agree. This is where they stay and were killed. Let's check it out."
The area was surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest and in the background were the Bill Williams Mountains. They found the motel right before the forest overtook the road. It was broken down, in need of paint, doors hanging off the hinges and stepping on the wooden walkway it creaked.
"I know Waverly is trying to keep within the budget but this is ridiculous."
Napoleon said as he wiped off his hands after opening the filthy office door. The office clerk was watching TV, and Illya had to hit the bell a few times before he answered.
"What you guys want? I's watching my programs." The manager gripped looking over the agents with an almost empty beer bottle in his hand. His tee shirt was dirty yellow, pants falling down and in need of a bath.
Napoleon pulled out his wallet showing the man his identification. "We'd like to see the room where the men were gun down. Also get your version of what happened if possible."
"I's busy, ain't got time to talk to you two." He said putting his hand out on the desk.
Sighing Napoleon took out a twenty and placed it on the outstretched hand. When it didn't disappear, he placed a second twenty on it.
"Well, I gots me a few minutes. What yous wants to know?" The money disappearing as he asked.
"What you saw and heard," Illya told him.
"You gots a strange accent there, yous a foreigner or something?"
Knowing they would get nowhere is Illya admitted it, Napoleon said, "He went to school in England. Now if you could answer his question."
"Yea, sure." He said giving Illya a once over again. "Them guys comes in here bickering and saying something about this not being right. Then they asks me was there a new lab around here. I tells them theys are imagining things as there ain't nothing new around here for years. The one says they needs to rest before heading out in the morning, and I gives them a key to my best room. That's it. Now I need to go back to my programs."
"Can we see the room?" Napoleon asked before placing another twenty in the clerk's hand.
"If you guys wants a place to sleep, I gots some empty." He called after them.
The agents headed toward the end of the walk where the room was located. The windows were still boarded up. Entering the room and flipping on the light, they could see the bullet holes from the agents' attack were still not repaired. Blood stains covered the floor.
"Obviously, he didn't use the money UNCLE paid him to repair the room." Napoleon said looking over the area.
The sound of tires crunching on the stone parking lot outside the room had the agents dropping to the floor behind the bed just before a hail of bullets came through the already ventilate walls. When the shooting stopped, they could make out the sounds of a car tearing out of the lot.
"You okay?" Napoleon asked his partner.
"Well I think we found out exactly what happened to our agents. But how did Thrush know they or for that matter we were here?"
The manager arrived yelling, "Just like them there other guys. Not even here a few minutes and yous got people shooting at you. You guys going to pay for this here damage?"
Napoleon handed him a card saying, "We'll send some guys out to fix the room."
"I don't want any of them guys here. Just have them give me the money, and I's fix it up."
Illya pulled the car in front of the motel while Napoleon left the manager standing in the doorway.
After reporting to Waverly, they head toward the airport watching for shadows or other signs of trouble.
When none appeared, Napoleon rubbed his face, "Okay they didn't check to see if they were successful in their attempt to kill us, and no one is now following. This is strange."
"Do you think they are trying to scare us off?" Illya asked pulling into the airport parking lot.
The sour look Solo gave him made him grin.
"You are right. They know we do not scare off. So do you have any idea as to what that was about?"
"Other than killing us, no. Let's review what we have. The information in the original agents report gave this location yet the site is out in the middle of nowhere. It's miles in the wrong direction from where the follow-up team finally found and took out the Thrush lab. If we believe the motel clerk, Halfax and Billings, asked if there was lab around here showing they were surprised it wasn't where the report said it should be."
"Could the original report have been incorrect?" Illya continued to watch for a tail as Napoleon concentrated on the problem. His partner thought best with his eyes closed.
Picking up a copy of the original report, he looked over the data again. "I don't think so. There are pictures and facts included in this report. Okay we have nothing different now except the somehow Thrush knew we were coming here and sent a welcoming committee. Let's head toward Louisiana and see what we find there."
Illya settled next to Napoleon on the plane to Louisiana. Waiting for the stewardess who was flirting with his partner to move down the aisle to help other travelers, he asked. "Okay so now we know exactly what happened, we have more questions than answers, but how does it help us find our leak?"
"I've no ideas right now, but hopeful when we find something when we visit where Harmon and Murray killed."
The agents landed in Alexandria, LA fifty miles from Natchitoches their destination. Although the closest airport to Natchitoches, once more the city they were headed toward was in the opposite direction from the Thrush stronghold that had been taken out by the second team that was sent to deal with the issue.
As Illya pulled the rental car out of the airport lot, Napoleon reexamined a copy of the original report from this affair. Watching Solo, Illya could tell when he reached the part that described the agents' deaths:
….."The partial remains of Murray were found spread out over the yard. Two alligators were still eating them and had begun on Harmon when the rescue team arrived. We were able to get Harmon away from them. Although he was critically injured, he was still alive and able to report they had been caught by Thrush, shot in the knees and elbows then dragged into the middle of the clearing where the gators were. He died right after that. "….
Napoleon swallowed noisily, "Not the way I want to go." He looked at his partner.
"Not my first choice either."
The men drove in silence as they entered the swamp area surrounding the city. The road was lined with moss-draped cypress and tupelo-gum trees. The standing water gave off a rank smell and was filled with bush and tall weeds. In the quiet, then saw alligators, snakes, turtles, and beautifully colored birds.
The sun was setting and the darkness caused by the trees gave an unnatural feeling to the area.
Napoleon shuttered, "How much longer before we get to the motel?"
A small chuckle, "You do not like our surroundings? I do not think the boggy men come out till after dark."
"Cute Kuryakin. Just get us there. It's going to be too late to do much tonight except eat and rest."
Stopping in a small road side restaurant that advertised authentic Cajun meals. The agents started with gumbo followed by Jambalaya. Napoleon leaned back full but his partner ordered some crawfish boil.
The American leaned back smiling at his partner. "Where are you putting all that?"
Not stopping from scooping crawfish, potatoes, onions and corn into his mouth, he said.
"I did not get to eat anything but that so called lunch on the plane."
"I've said it before and will say it again; they need to name you the ninth wonder of the world.'
A glare was all Illya spared as he attacked his food. Finally he ordered creole cream cheese that was made from skim milk, buttermilk, sugar, fruit and rennet giving it a mild, slightly tart, slightly sweet taste for dessert. Finishing his beer, he sat back and sighed.
"Is the human garbage can filled now?" Napoleon teased.
"Yes I am. I cannot help it I need a lot of food to deal with my metabolism. Besides who knows when we will have our next meal."
The Russian saying as he headed toward the bathroom. "I will meet you at the cashier. We need to get to the motel before it gets any darker."
When he came out, Solo was flirting with the cashier.
"Are we ready to go?" he asked rolling his eyes and heading toward the car. A few miniutes later his partner caught up with him.