The Take Two Aspirin Affair
I've been a physician for over twenty-three years now, with half of those spent right here at the good old U.N.C.L.E. It's been a real learning experience, let me tell you. Now, I had my stint in the army medical corps, so I'm no newbie to trauma and mayhem. But these young agents they have here, they wrote the book on coming up with new ways to need medical intervention. I guess that's why they have to retire at forty, since the trauma toteboard can only hold so much.
I've treated everything from hangnails (April Dancer) to dysentery (Illya Kuryakin) to sprained ankle tripping over a cat (Napoleon Solo.) There's never a dull moment around here. Just when I think I'll have time to peruse my Reader's Digest, in walks another enforcement agent. Oh, well, that's job security for you.
Like tonight; it's Friday and I hope to have the NY Times crossword puzzle done before my shift is over. I've never actually gotten all the answers before. Dang, those puzzles must be drawn up by sadistic English Lit majors who had Nazi nuns in Catholic school. I'm just trying to figure out the answer to 24 Down—Sancho Panza's friend—when in walks Napoleon Solo himself (he of the sprained ankle, remember?) holding a hanky wrapped around his left hand. I point at an empty chair and he drops into it with a sigh.
He shakes his head.
"Angelique bite you again?"
He glowers at me and I take the hint. I merely raise my eyebrows at him until he spills.
"Regular or phillips?" Sometimes I'm a real pain in the ass. I unwrap the hanky and find a four-inch-long gash in the meat of Solo's thenar muscularis. Good thing it's not his gun hand, or I'd be writing him up on the disabled list. "Nice job, Napoleon. Care to expound on this one?"
He looks in the direction of the duty nurse's desk, but she is on a coffee break. Some shifts, I wish she'd take a work break. He looks embarrassed. I imagine some sordid little sexcapade and almost rub my hands together in anticipation. I do so love to take the section two guys down a peg or two. It's good for their egos, and might keep them humble enough to live longer.
"I was building a bookcase. One of those prefab ones. I tried to tighten the nut one turn too many."
It's clear this is all I'm getting out of him. My smutty visions disappear like smoke. "You were building something? With tools? Without Illya there?"
Solo gives a long-suffering sigh and fixes me with a look. "I can hot-wire a car, disarm bombs, and shoot the eye out of a gnat. Why is it so difficult to believe I can build things?"
I smile at him in a friendly way, disarming him. "Napoleon, you're good at demolishing things. I have a hard time imagining you being domestic and using mundane things like screwdrivers. Besides, I've seen your medical records..."
My patient grunted, the closest thing to a laugh I'd gotten out of him tonight. I placed his hand over a basin and began flushing the wound with betadine. "Looks like you just grazed the muscle. Most of this is just dermis damage. Some stitches and antibiotics and you'll be good as new." I couldn't resist. "Or what passes for it, anyway."
Solo squirmed in the chair. "Hold still, or this will take twice as long. You agents are such babies." I went to the cabinet and pulled out a syringe and a bottle of lidocaine. I made a great display of squirting the solution out of the end of a very long silvery needle. Solo rolled his eyes at me. I injected along the line of the laceration, numbing the area thoroughly. I may joke around with my patients, but I want to take away as much of their pain as I can. I just don't feel the need to let them know this.
"So what brought on this nesting behavior?" I started pulling the wound edges together, opposing them perfectly. Solo has enough scars; Lord knows he doesn't need another.
He looked vaguely embarrassed again. "It's...uh...Illya's birthday Monday. I was making it for him. You know, the stack of books with legs?"
I laughed. I did indeed know his partner; brainy type, always striving to learn more than he already did, which was impressive enough.
"You won't tell him about this, will you, doc?"
I finished with the last knot and bandaged the hand securely. "Scout's honor."
Solo frowned. "I happen to know you were never a boy scout."
"I wasn't?" I checked the color of his fingers and took his pulse. Satisfied, I released his hand with a pat. "Okay, how about my patient confidentiality oath?"
Solo stood, holding out his good hand. "I'll hold you to it." He shook my hand, winked at me and was gone before I could ask him how to spell 'Quixote.'
I cleaned up the detritus from Solo's attempted domesticity, and settled down with my size eleven feet on my desk, picking up where I left off. "26 Down—close relation." I sniggered as I filled in the answer. "Uncle." This was too easy. I'd just had a moment to savor my imagined victory when the door to the infirmary banged open and thwacked against the wall. April Dancer stood there, frowning at me, and I hadn't said a word yet.
If she were a color she'd have been burnt orange. She crackled with irritation and I approached her as I would any other wounded animal. "April. What seems to be the problem?" I was smart enough to still keep the desk between us.
I could see she didn't want to tell me, but she pulled her hand from behind her back. I resisted the urge to duck. Her right hand was bandaged rather haphazardly with a remnant of what might have been a kitchen towel once upon a time. I sighed toward heaven.
I pointed to the recently occupied chair again. She sat rather stiffly, as if the chair would bite her.
Here we go again. "Stab wound?"
"You and Mark getting kinky?"
She wrinkled her cute little brows at me. "Certainly not."
I work on the cut, feeling a distinct wave of déjà vu run through me. I clear my throat.
That got my attention. "Liquid propane?"
She rolled her eyes in a 'heaven help me' look and said, "L.P. As in record."
I tried not to laugh, since I didn't want my eyes black and blue in the morning. I coughed to cover my amusement. "Go on," I managed to say in a normal voice.
She looked around to see if the coast was clear. This was getting downright creepy...
"I tripped over a damned cat and fell on a record I had in my hand."
Now I did laugh. "That seems to be a predilection among section two agents." She looked at her feet. "I didn't know you had a cat," I said, making conversation.
"I don't. I wasn't home at the time."
"Ahh," I said as if I understood. Wonder whose home she was at? My imagination began to wander down Smutty Street again, and April coughed.
She seemed embarrassed, like a child who'd been caught smoking. "You see, Illya's birthday is coming up..."
"Monday." She looked at me. "It's in his medical file." Damn, I'm quick.
"Well, he's the hardest person in the world to buy a present for."
I nodded in sympathy as I flushed the slice. Clean, just across the skin above the extensor carpi ulnaris. She was lucky it wasn't deeper. Butterflies should do this one. Won't miss any work that way, either.
Dancer sighed, resigned to her fate. "So I broke into his apartment and checked out his jazz collection."
Her admission caused me to miss a beat, but I hid it by walking to the supply cabinet. I got what I needed and returned, blotting her hand dry so I could close the cut.
"It's not a big deal. I know the security codes. I just wanted to see what he already had so I could get him a new album. I didn't see the damned cat until it was right under my feet." April brought her free hand down on the mayo stand, making the instruments jump and me as well.
"Now I have to replace the one I broke tonight. Where am I going to find a 'Charlie Parker Yardbird' at this time of night?"
I placed the steri-strips equidistant apart and wrapped a loose dressing on the hand. "I'm going to write you a prescription." I scribbled on my pad and tore it off, handing it to her.
She looked at it as if it were coated with poison. "I don't need any pills."
I sighed loudly. Enforcement agents...
"Read it," I ordered. That got her attention.
"Byerly Music Store, Bleecker Street. 'One Night in Washington.'" She looked puzzled for a moment and then grinned. She had a nice smile.
"One of Bird's best, in my opinion."
Dancer stood and gave me a quick hug. "And I have just enough time to get there and back to Illya's place before he gets home."
"You like to live dangerously," I mused.
"It's part of the job description, doc." She swept out of the room, leaving me in a swirl of perfume and lingering fantasies.
This time I didn't even get to my desk, let alone the crossword puzzle. You guessed it, none other than Illya Kuryakin stepped into my parlor. I should have seen it coming; some kind of karmic convergence was definitely happening. Except he was limping. I sighed and pointed to the hotseat before he opened his mouth. He sat heavily.
Wait for it. "Stab wound?"
"Trip over a cat?" So I'm evil, too...
He was dressed head-to-toe in black, but with Illya it gave no indication of his duty status. I waited. He didn't exactly look around; it was clear the room was empty but for the two of us. I removed his boot and sock and grimaced at the swelling around his ankle. I went for an ice pack and gently set it on the joint. He hissed ever so slightly.
"I fell off a stage."
Now, if it had been anyone else I would have laughed out loud. But this was Illya Kuryakin, the Ice Prince, the White Wolf, the, oh, you can fill in the blanks yourself. I liked my kidneys in their present position, so I merely bent over his foot, pretending to inspect it further.
"I had help."
I looked up, raising my eyebrows.
He sighed deeply as if speaking were physically painful to him. "My birthday is coming up soon."
"Monday." I didn't elaborate.
He gave me a look that bugs must get from entomologists right before they drop them into alcohol. "I've been avoiding Napoleon and April after hours for the last couple of days. Suffice it to say they have a different opinion than I of how to spend one's birthday."
I love listening to this guy speak. Lovely voice that. And his grammar and diction...I shook myself mentally and nodded, encouraging him. The swelling was shrinking, so I started wrapping an ace bandage around the sprain.
"Anyway, I've been going to a jazz club after work. I play the bass in the house band occasionally. A certain young lady has been making it clear that she is...well...interested." He dropped his head, his fair coloring giving him away.
"Tonight her boyfriend showed up."
I snickered. "Let me guess. His name was 'Tiny.'"
"Actually, I think it was Tank. He was aptly named."
Illya sighed again. "I had no intention of fighting him; I merely wanted to stay out of his range. Unfortunately, while backing off the stage, I tripped on a drum stick left over from the earlier set. It could have been worse; I landed on a drunk."
I couldn't help it. I started laughing. Illya glowered at me and my sense of preservation kicked in and I managed to stop in a hurry. "Well, it isn't too bad. Just a sprain. But you will have to be off duty for a few days."
Kuryakin dropped his head and moaned softly.
I patted his knee and said sympathetically, "I know how much you agents hate to miss out on the action."
He shook his head. "No, you don't understand. Now I'll have to stay home. I'll be a sitting duck." The misery in his eyes was almost comical. I did not laugh.
I got up and took a pair of crutches out of the storage closet. "Take my advice, Illya. I may be just a country doctor but I know what's good for you."
He gave the crutches an evil glare. I held them out to him. "Use them. You'll get back on your feet faster."
He stood, balancing on his good leg and placed the crutches under his arms. He turned and walked slowly to the door.
"Oh, and Illya?"
The Russian slowly swung around to face me again.
"Stay home for your birthday this year. Trust me."
He gave me a puzzled look, but then turned and left, his crutches making squicking noises on the tile as he went. I waited a few minutes, then poked my head out the door and looked down the hall. No one in sight. I tiptoed over to my desk and lowered carefully into the chair. I looked at the door again. I tempted the gods by picking up the crossword.
"28 Down—Turkish word for fate." I smiled again as I filled in the word kismet.
Some days make up for others.