The motel was another run down grouping of shacks. As they walked to the office, a combination of leaf mold, red clay and sediments covered their shoes causing Napoleon to complain.
"These are my good Italian loafers. They'll never be the same."
"If you would not wear your most expensive clothes when you know we are going into areas that are not civilized, it would not be a problem."
Behind his back, Napoleon mimicked the comment and made a face.
"You know I am aware of what you are doing do you not?"
"Let's just see if they have a room, shall we?"
"You really want to stay here?" The uncertainty of staying at this motel came through the Russian's voice.
"This is where our agents stayed and the last place we know they were alive before the clearing. It seems to me a best place to start."
Illya looked around and shivered. The location reminded him of places he had hid from the Germans as a child, none of them pleasant.
Hitting the bell to summon the clerk, Napoleon heard a sweet voice calling out to wait a minute. He began to primp and straighten his hair causing Illya to roll his eyes once more. A moment later his eyes laughed as a woman dressed in a ratty bathrobe, curlers, and a ton of makeup came to the desk.
As she saw Napoleon, she moved her hand to straighten out her robe and touched the rollers.
"Oh honey sorry about I'm such a mess but a girl has to get beautiful when she can." She said grinning at the American.
Napoleon pasted on a charming smile and said.
"We're here to investigate the death of our men. We believe they stayed here. Any information you can give us would be greatly appreciated."
"Well sweetie. I checked them in about two hours later I after hearing some shooting and called the sheriff. I understand they found them the next morning after the gators got to them. That's really all I know." She told them offering Napoleon more than information with her eyes that he ignored.
"Could we possible check out their room and get on for the night."
"I have got two if you want some privacy." She offered with hope in her voice.
"I sorry our boss is on a money saving move right now. Could we have the key to that room?" Illya said.
The disappoint clear in her eyes as she handed him the key. "If you change your mind…."
"We'll let you know." They signed the guest register, accepted the key and went to investigate the room.
The room hadn't been redone in years. The yellow flooring, peeling paint, and dust indicated not many stopped here for the night.
Instead of bringing in their suitcases, they decide to only bring in travel bags and hopeful avoid strange creatures from crawling into the cases during the night.
"If you would like a private room for the night, I would not mind," Illya offered with a laugh in his voice.
The dirty look and hit in the head from his partner let him know his sense of humor wasn't appreciated.
After they were settled, they headed toward the other room. The old police tape was hanging off the side of the door. The empty room had blood stains with powder burns surrounding them on the floor.
"It doesn't look like the police did much to the room," Napoleon observed.
"I think it's more a matter of our lovely owner saving the room as a conversational piece."
They searched the room, found a broken knob from what looked like gas line under the bed.
"Now we know how they were caught without a fight. Thrush had gassed them, then shoot their knees and elbows out so they can't get away before dropping them in the gator clearing. Illya wondered again how they got this address to stay instead of where the rooms were reserved and the Thrush installation was located. Again how did Thrush know they would be here? They weren't inexperience agents."
Once they returned to their room, Napoleon pulled out the copy of the report that was with Harmon and Murray. This is the location that was mentioned, but when the second team went out they didn't come here but to the correct location."
Before they could discuss it further, canisters of gas came through the window. Grabbing for guns, they hugged the floor before they were completely out of the holsters.
They woke up hands cuffed between them and tied together back to back in their undershorts in the middle of a clearing. Shaking his head to clear it, Illya whispered to his already conscious partner.
"Do you know where we're at?"
"No need to whisper Kuryakin. You and Solo are in the middle of an alligator clearing that your agents died in." The darkness of the swamp made it impossible to see the man. A cold mixture of swamp water and fish parts was poured over the men.
"What is this stuff?" Napoleon asked coughing out the swallowed water.
"Alligator bait. We've trained our gators to come and eat what we left for them." The voice again.
"What no questions or demands? No bragging about how smart you are?" Illya tried baiting the man.
Instead of getting angry, the voice laughed. "No I'm sorry Kuryakin. You two have cause Thrush so much trouble, I've decided to just kill you. Central might not be happy, but I'm sure I can make it up to them."
With that, the agents could hear the men surrounding them leaving. Silence lasted only a few minutes before the night came alive with sounds. Birds calling, grasshoppers chirping, bullfrogs croaking and in the distance a bobcat calling for its mate. The ground seemed to move with insects and snakes.
"Can you get us out of these cuffs? The ropes aren't as tight as he thought. I woke up while they were tying us together and bent forward."
Napoleon began to twist in the ropes while Illya tried to move his feet,
"If I can get to my shoe, I have a wire in the heel that I can use to unlock them."
Illya joined Napoleon in twisting. Just beginning to loosen the ropes when they heard a loud crash coming from around them. They began to see gators heading toward them.
"I think the diners are getting tired of waiting. We need to hurry up."
"You know that you can be the master of understatement," Illya complained as he managed to slip his cuffed hands out of the ropes. Standing he pulled the ropes down helping Napoleon stand before shaking them off.
They could see the gators getting closer deciding to wait until they were away from the animals to uncuff themselves. Going toward the trees, Napoleon fell over their clothes, guns and equipment where it had been thrown by Thrush. Grabbing them up, he followed his partner into the trees and safety.
Once they were far enough away from the clearing, they stopped while Illya picked their handcuffs then dressed.
"Which way do we go?" The American asked, knowing his sense of direction would surely get them lost.
"Well according to the record from the rescue team, the clearing was two miles south of the hotel. The North Star is visible there, so I would say that way but as you were the Boy Scout maybe you have a better idea." Grinning as he talked.
"Don't be a smart alert Russian. Just lead the way, but be careful of the swamp."
They arrived back at the motel almost four hours later having to retrace their steps a number of times because of the sudden deeper water. They were wet, dirty and tired.
They quickly packed up and were on the way to a Holiday Inn in Alexandria. The clerk had just raised an eyebrow at their appearance and handed them a key.
As Solo gave Waverly a report, Illya cleaned up. After his turn, Napoleon said.
"His voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it."
After thinking it over, "You are right neither could I. Let us sleep now and think about this in the morning."
It only took them a minute after they laid their heads on the pillows to be out like a light.