He is Your Brother
Napoleon sighed at the sharp bite of fall in the wind that hit his face through the car window. It wouldn't be long now. Already the nights were starting to draw in, as his mother used to say, although he was never sure of the actual meaning of that saying. He slowed for a curve, hitting the gas at just the right second to shoot him through it. At this time of the day, he didn't have to watch for deer, but he kept an eye out none the less. He'd seen bears and mountain lions, deer and raccoons, all sorts of critters as he drove the back roads of the Foothills.
After twenty years, he'd grown accustomed to the winding curves, the stomach-jarring dips and the sudden appearance of wildlife. It tempered his speed, or perhaps it was old age that had done that. He was no longer in a hurry to get places these days. Strolling seemed a more attractive option than running these days.
As he drove, his mind trailed back to the accidental meeting with a stranger, a man struggling with not only his own life, but his impending death.
The bar was very full, but as it was the only one in Penn Valley, that was to be expected. There was a stool to either side of a solitary man and Napoleon paused by the one to his left.
"Is this seat taken?"
"Not if you're willing to take your own life in your hands."
"Been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it." Napoleon settled onto the stool and signaled to the bartender. He'd known Jim for a long time. Napoleon had first come here to see what sort of wines the bar carried, always a good indicator of what people liked to drink in town, and the meeting had grown into a friendship. Jim and his wife had even come and stayed with them a time or two.
"Napoleon, there's a nice table over there. Would you be more comfortable over there, with your back and all?"
Napoleon frowned. His back was fine and he cocked his head in question, trying to guess what Jim was playing at.
"He's trying to do you a favor, stranger," the stranger murmured. "I'm a pariah."
"I'm a Sagittarius myself." Napoleon added an easy grin to the comment. "And here I thought you were just a guy having a drink." Napoleon grinned at Jim. "I'm fine here. Scotch and whatever he's having."
"Napoleon..." Jim tried again and Napoleon held up his hand. The bartender silenced, but Napoleon could see he was none too happy about it.
"I'm fine, Jim, really." He offered his hand. "Napoleon Solo, risk taker."
"Marvin Black, walking dead." Napoleon's hand was grasped in a warm, strong shake. "You might want to go wash that now."
Napoleon ignored the comment. "Marvin Black... the writer?" That explained a lot. The man had been given a death sentence—he'd been diagnosed with AIDS. And he'd not been quiet about it.
"I write, yes."
The glasses were set before them and Napoleon pulled his a bit closer. "You do more than just write. I'm originally from New York; your piece on living there in the 60's and 70's was very powerful. Thanks to you, I got up enough courage to embrace a new aspect of my personality."
"Then you really do want to move to that table in the corner as your friend keeps suggesting."
Napoleon lifted his glass to him. "I'm sorry."
"About?" The glass of Jack Daniels followed suit.
"I'm not moving and I'm sorry about your prognosis." Napoleon took a sip of the Scotch and closed his eyes at the pleasure of the liquor warming his throat. "It's a terrible thing."
"Why are you worried? You're tucked into your nice safe family."
"You're wearing a wedding ring. Unless your wife is sleeping around, you're safely married."
"Allow me to show you a picture of 'my wife'." Napoleon pulled out his wallet and flipped it open to his favorite shot of Illya. It was of him, chef coat open, his feet propped up on his desk, a menu on his lap, with a decidedly goofy 'what the hell are you doing?' grin on his face. "And he'd probably rip your kidneys out and sauté them up in a nice white sauce for you for calling him that."
"He's a good looking man. I'm jealous."
"You should have seen him in his twenties."
"Then you are safe, if you've been together that long."
"Nearly forty years, give or take." Napoleon smiled fondly at the photo before tucking his wallet back away.
"Safe and lucky then." Black sipped his drink again. "My lover managed to stay a whole six months before taking off. It wasn't so much the fear of catching AIDS, it was the social stigma. No one would get near us. They stupidly thought the mere act of shaking our hands would curse them. He couldn't stand the isolation anymore." Black set the glass down, but never took his eyes off of it. "And the worst part is I don't blame him. I'd have probably done the same."
"I don't think so. You see, I have made a life's habit out of reading people. You don't strike me as the abandoning sort."
"Have you ever been wrong?"
"Not as a rule." Napoleon finished his scotch and signaled Jim. "Another?"
"Better not; I'm just pausing in my journey and I will need my wits about me."
"Where are you headed?"
"Sacramento, then on to San Fran."
"San Francisco, they get grumpy there if you call it San Fran," Napoleon advised him. "Just consider it a heads up from another New Yorker. Writing something new?"
"A book about a man trying to exist after his lover dies of AIDS."
"I'll keep my eyes open for it. I'm sure I will enjoy it as much as the others."
Their conversation had closed the bar down that night and they exchanged phone numbers before they parted ways. Napoleon had gone straight back to his room and called Illya, just to hear his voice and feel the blanket of love settle back down around him. Yet there had been no answer at home and the restaurant was closed as well. Napoleon decided Illya was either dead to the world or out with friends.
Up here, the threat of AIDS seemed a distant one, although Napoleon knew more and more cases were coming to light. It had hit the gay community in San Francisco particularly hard. More than once, he'd come into the house to see Illya sitting, his eyes staring at nothing, a letter held, forgotten, in his hand—another friend or colleague given a death sentence.
They had both been tested, as had anyone else Illya could drag into the doctor's office. That had been a first, as Illya usually avoided doctors at all cost. This told Napoleon how concerned Illya was about this disease. Matt and Rocky had been monogamous for years, although Napoleon had been worried about Winston. Within their small circle of friends in Jackson, all was well. Somehow, that made what was happening elsewhere even worse.
The next morning, there was still no answer at the house, so Napoleon left a message on the machine there and another on the restaurant's recorder. Two days of not talking with Illya was very nearly too long and Napoleon was looking forward to getting home. He hit Jackson's city limits and waited patiently at the first of many stop lights. When he'd arrived, there had been one at either end of town and not much of anything else in between.
Then the place exploded when the first casino came in. Then a second one opened and suddenly a new road was being constructed to handle the extra traffic. Chain stores and restaurants were popping up all over and slowly Jackson lost its tiny backwater feel. It certainly wasn't Sacramento or even Stockton, but it was getting there. Napoleon just wasn't sure how he felt about it. He liked not having to go quite so far for things, but he hated losing that 'everyone knows everything' appeal Jackson once had.
Napoleon took the right turn that dumped him into the older section of town, his section of town, and followed the road down and around. Antique stores, boutiques, and other tourist-aimed stores lined either side of the road, just as they had in past days. At least Jackson hadn't changed that much in here.
A sharp bend and there was Taste and Vinea, just as he'd left them... no wait, not just as he'd left them. There was a wreath of some sort on the restaurant's door. That was odd. He pulled around back to park in their driveway and braked the car suddenly. A second wreath graced their front door.
What the hell is going on? Napoleon climbed out of the car and walked to the door. The ribbon read R.I.P and he felt a funny lump rise in his throat. He hurriedly unlocked the door and stepped inside.
"Illya?" He shouted as he pushed open the door. There was a stack of mail on the floor and a handful of magazines stretched from one end of the couch to the other. An empty coffee cup stood, alone and forgotten on an end table and Napoleon picked it up.
Then it struck him—where were the cats? Usually Brunir, Roux, and Fremir would be all over themselves to greet him or anyone else who walked through the door. Those three were the most social cats Napoleon had ever known. They loved people and never missed an opportunity to be petted. So, where were they?
The house was so quiet he could almost hear the dust settling. He walked to the kitchen, but it was neat and clean, unlike any other room Illya breezed through. The man was still a cyclone of mess, even now, except in the kitchen. Here, everything was polished and exact. Napoleon set the cup in the sink and it made a ticking sound against the stainless steel.
"Puss, puss, where are you guys?" Any voice coming from the kitchen would be urgently met by demands for food, but this time nothing but his own voice greeted him. A small coil of nervousness touched Napoleon's stomach. He paused to look out the back door, oak trees stood dark against the yellow and brown grass of the rolling hills. He had been delighted when Jackson had grown away from them, leaving the meadow behind them open. Now he felt isolated, strangely alone in a town of several thousand people.
He climbed the stairs, pausing halfway to look down into their small living room, then up. He shook his head and continued through to their bedroom. Like the rest of the house, it was empty. The bed was unmade, rumpled, so very much his partner, and Napoleon sighed. The man would be the death of him.
Instead of straightening it, Napoleon opted to first use the toilet. Washing his hands, he spotted the note from Illya, stuck in beside a faded shot of Napoleon, sprawled out naked with a limerick painted across his back. That had been a great Valentine's Day, their first as a married couple. It seemed like yesterday and it seemed like a hundred years ago, all at the same time.
Drying his hands, he plucked the note free from behind the photo and unfolded it.
By the time you read this, I will be gone. Be sure to take care of the cats and don't overfeed them, no matter what they tell you. If you need to reach me, I'm at the Red Lion (916) 547-2200. I will be in meetings most of the day, but you can leave a message at the front desk. Hope your buying trip was successful. See you in a week. Любовь (love), Illya
Napoleon sighed and nodded, folding the note neatly in half and tucking it into his shirt pocket. Of course, Illya was in Sacramento at a culinary symposium and wouldn't be back until tomorrow—so much for Napoleon's plans for a joyous homecoming. He'd forgotten all about that conference. He'd had this buying trip all set up and really couldn't see his way clear to cancelling it when Illya announced he'd been invited to attend as a keynote speaker.
It wasn't the first time they'd gone to different events, but after talking with Marvin Black, Napoleon had been consumed with the need to hold Illya and let his lover know just how much he was appreciated. Now that would have to wait.
The front door opened, then closed, and Napoleon's head swiveled in that direction. Too early for Illya, but then who? He went to the head of the stairs and looked down. Matt, his face red and puffy, looked up at him. The man looked as if he'd lost his best friend.
"Matt, what's wrong?" Napoleon's mind dashed in a dozen different directions as he hurried down the stairs to the younger man. Napoleon's voice was enough to send the man into a sudden outburst of gut-wrenching sobs.
"Oh, Cara," Matt choked out and Napoleon gathered him into his arms. "I'm so sorry..."
"Matt? What are you sorry about? I don't understand."
"Illya... he's gone." A band of tension constricted around Napoleon's chest and he closed his eyes for a moment to regain control. He opened them and watched as, wordless except for deep sighs, Matt struggled to hand him the local paper.
"What has gotten into you?" Napoleon snatched it from him and across the front page was a shot of Illya from some local function and the headline, Jackson Loses Favorite Son. Confused, Napoleon scanned it quickly, skimming over the details of Illya's career. "AIDS? Illya doesn't have AIDS. This is impossible. This is wrong. We were all tested..."
"When was this supposed to have happened, Matt?"
The hammering in Napoleon's chest decreased, just a little. "Matt, I want you to listen to me. Can you do that?" The redhead nodded slightly and Napoleon continued. "Illya's in Sacramento at the Culinary Symposium, remember? He's not dead; he's just out of town."
"But the paper—"
"Is wrong. I know what this says, but Illya is alive." He only hoped his voice sounded stronger than it felt. "I can prove it." Napoleon dug the note from his pocket and went to the phone. He dialed the number with a less-than-steady finger and waited. When the voice answered, he said. "May I have Mr. Kuryakin's room please? Napoleon Solo. Thank you."
There were three rings and a familiar voice rang in his ear. "Kuryakin."
For a moment, Napoleon just breathed, trying to calm his racing heart.
"Who is this, please?" Illya's voice was tight and Napoleon abruptly realized he was a second away from dial tone.
"Napoleon? You sound... what's wrong?" Illya's voice was confused. "Are you okay? Is something wrong with the restaurant? Matt? Talk to me."
"Do me a favor, old friend, and tell Matt you are still alive."
"Still alive? Of course, I'm... give Matt the phone."
Napoleon offered the receiver to Matt and watched as, hesitantly, the man took it. He couldn't hear what Illya said and didn't bother to translate the rapid fire response in Italian from Matt. He decided he'd give Matt some privacy. He took the moment to breathe deeply, calming himself, edging back from the cliff that would lead to a panic attack, or worse, a real heart attack.
"He wants to talk to you again, Cara." Matt managed a weak smile and sank to a stair, looking as if he'd been dragged through the streets and left in a puddle.
"Yes, Illya?" Napoleon was still trying to calm his voice as he sat beside Matt and slipped a comforting arm about the younger man's shoulders.
"Are you all right?" Illya's voice was soft. "Your heart... "
"I had a bad couple of minutes, but I'm fine now." Napoleon didn't realize just how fine he was and how scared he'd been. "It just wasn't exactly the homecoming I'd been anticipating."
"It's Sunday and my last official panel is supposedly Thursday afternoon, but I will take with the organizers to get everything moved up. I can be probably be there by Tuesday, in the afternoon if all goes well. Find out who did this, Napoleon. It would have to be someone who has access to the records at the coroner's office or the paper and has an axe to grind with me. He or she would also have to have known I'd be away for awhile."
"You're thinking someone in the industry then? That narrows the field down then. I'll let the Powers That Be know as well."
"No, I've always wanted to attend my own funeral." Illya paused. "Let the staff at Taste and anyone you think can keep quiet know the truth, but no one else."
"Illya, why would someone say that you are dead? I mean, you'd be back here in seven days and it would be obvious."
"And even after that short a time, the damage to Taste would be considerable, possibly more than we could recover from. To say that the diners at Taste were exposed to AIDS would be a death sentence for us. I will call you later with my revised schedule."
"Just drive carefully, okay?"
"I'll even wear my helmet."
"I have a better idea. Everyone here knows your motorcycle. I'll send you an escort, someone who can get you into town unobserved."
"A man I met over in Sonora. His name is Marvin Black. He's there in Sacramento and once I've explained what's going on, I'm sure he'd be willing to help.
"Why would he help in this?"
"Because he's a man who doesn't abandon a friend or a cause and you'll need to meet him to know what I mean."
"If you trust him, then so do I. Love you."
Napoleon smiled. Illya seldom used the actual words. "I love you too." He cradled the phone and patted Matt on the shoulder. "Come on, old son, we have some snooping to do. By the way, where are the cats?"
"I took them home with me I didn't know when you'd be back and they seemed so concerned. The last I saw of them, they had poor Fernando huddled in a corner. He was...frenetico per fuggire. "
The mental image Napoleon got of the three cats ganging up on a poor defenseless German shepherd made him chuckle, and he was suddenly delighted with how the day was playing out. "With those three, I'd be frantic to escape as well. Let's go rescue him first, then."
Napoleon sat in the crowd and wondered just where Illya was. Even now, the man was a master of disguise, able to move through a room of people undetected until he chose otherwise.
The turnout for the funeral had been so overwhelming they'd had to adjourn to a nearby park to accommodate everyone before continuing. Napoleon had played his role as a devastated survivor to the hilt, nodding and solemnly shaking hands with strangers and mere acquaintances. They carried on as if Illya had been a close and personal friend to each of them and Napoleon didn't bother to correct their thinking. It was touching in a way that so many people saw his partner as a friend when, in fact, Illya counted his friends as few.
Napoleon suddenly caught view of Marvin Black, standing quietly on the fringes of the crowd and Napoleon swallowed his grin. Illya was here, now things could get started.
He nodded to the mayor, his voice for the funeral, as he was too broken up to talk. Stephen nodded back solemnly and cleared his throat. As the mic sprang to life, he asked for everyone's attention.
The news of Illya's demise had spread quickly through the cooking community and a large number of men and women wore dual red and black ribbons pinned to their chef jackets, a quiet show of support for AIDS as well as a sign of the loss of one of their own. Napoleon took a few of them, the ones he knew and trusted, aside and enlightened them.
The mayor was going on about what a gift Illya had been to Jackson and how much he'd given back to the community when Napoleon spotted Peter Van Durk, smirking and looking decidedly non-mournful.
Peeta's had moved into town about a year ago, amid much fanfare. They were going to blow Taste out of the water or so their ads claimed. Concerned, Matt had gone to Illya and the Russian had merely smiled.
"Let our customers decide, Matt," had been his advice. While the crowds flocked to Peeta's initially, they soon returned to Taste. They complained that the food at Peeta's was heavy and without imagination and the people at Michelin agreed. Taste, without fanfare or fireworks, held its spot as the Foothills' premier five-star restaurant while Peeta's struggled to survive.
Lately, there had been whispers, insinuations that Taste hid a dark secret, and it had taken Napoleon very little effort at all to find out who was behind the rumors. It had taken even less time to discover that one of Van Durk's cousins worked for the local paper and was the sort of man who was easily inflamed and even more easily led.
Napoleon had grimly passed the information on to Illya that night.
"I thought as much," Illya murmured, his voice muffled as he disrobed. "Van Durk has decided to play dirty. Shame he doesn't know the truth about us."
"That we're gay?" In his mind's eye, Napoleon could see Illya grinning even as he was saying it.
"That we are former spies. Call Joe and see if he knows a good libel lawyer. I got this bastard for both libel and slander. I'm going to make him dance for me."
"For us," Napoleon corrected.
"For us then. Do you still have that UNCLE recorder? The small one?"
"I do." There had been a few things Napoleon had never gotten around to returning to his former employer.
"Take it with you, old friend. I think it will prove useful."
It had been hard for Napoleon to hold his tongue at the service. He'd overheard Van Durk making vague statements to people, "Well, I didn't think he'd looked well for a while now." Or, "How long had he been cooking with this illness?" Worse, "How many people do you think he infected while at the restaurant? You should come to Peeta's. We're all straight there."
Napoleon knew Illya cooked very little now, although he did take a turn once in awhile just to keep his hand in. He longed to take Van Durk aside and give him a taste of fives, but he'd promised Illya he'd listen and not engage the man.
Napoleon sighed, tired of this masquerade. He wanted to leap to his feet and loudly proclaim Illya's death was a façade. Instead, he stayed silent and occasionally locked eyes with Matt and Rocky as they sat huddled on the metal chairs the funeral home had provided.
A tickle at the back of his neck told Napoleon his partner was near, that unmistakable sense each had when the other was close. He scanned the crowd, settling on and then discarding a dozen potential choices. Napoleon knew he could look his partner in the eye and still not recognize him until Illya decided otherwise. He was going to have to get Illya on the stage one of these days.
The mayor, his eyes on Napoleon, asked if anyone would like to say something and Napoleon let his head hang, trying to look too struck with grief to react. One by one people stood and mumbled condolences and memories until a small man in the back stood and, with a thick Scottish brogue started to mumble something. It was hard to make out the words and the mayor gestured him forward.
"Sir, perhaps you'd like to use the mic so people can hear you." That's when Napoleon realized the mayor was in on it as well and he smirked, realizing Illya's identity as last.
Head bent, the face hidden by a low slung hat, the man shuffled up to the microphone. If Napoleon didn't know that was Illya, even now he'd have been fooled. How his partner did that was still a mystery.
"What Ah was sayin', laddie..." The thick brogue suddenly melted and Illya's familiar accent replaced it. "... is that the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." The hat came off and Illya shook his head, letting his long blond hair settle back into place.
There was a gasp through the crowd, but none looked as shocked a Peter Van Durk. Matt's hand found Napoleon's and squeezed.
"I don't know exactly who started this little three ring circus. Imagine my surprise when Napoleon called me at a culinary conference with the news that I was dead and not just dead from natural causes, but from AIDS. This tells me that the perpetrator in this is both underhanded and a homophobe. It would have to be someone who wasn't just out to get rid of me, but to destroy Taste as well. To say I'd died from a disease that carries such a stigma among the general public would be a death stroke to our restaurant After all, who would want to eat at a restaurant that had had an AIDS-diagnosed chef? Thus, in spite of the fact that none of us have been diagnosed with the disease, the damage would be done. Who would stand to gain in such a situation?" Illya's eyes focused on Van Durk and the man visibly cringed. "Thanks to my partner for some rather ingenious investigating, I know exactly who was responsible and I am hoping that he has a very good lawyer, for the next time we talk it will be in court."
Van Durk suddenly stood and immediately there was a deputy to either side of him.
"What the hell are you doing? Libel isn't an arrestable offense."
"And you admit to it in front of all these people. That was stupid. You might have just been spared a ton of money, Illya," Napoleon said without taking his eyes off Van Durk. "Perhaps slander or libel isn't worth the effort of arresting you."
"I never slandered him."
Napoleon took out the small tape recorder. Tapping the play button, he grinned as Van Durk's voice said, "How many people do you think he infected while at the restaurant? You should come to Peeta's. We're all straight there."
Van Durk's mouth dropped open and Milt who had appeared beside his deputies, nodded solemnly. "Sounds like slander to me, Mr. Van Durk. Purposefully misreporting a man's death, misuse of public funds, misinforming the public—well, I'm not too sure about that one, all for the intent of discrediting one man, I think I can find something that will stick. And if I think hard enough, I'm sure I can come up with a half dozen more. Let's go and have a little chat, Mr. Van Durk."
Illya watched Milt lead the man away and ran a hand through his hair, looking out over the crowd until he spotted Napoleon. His features softened then.
"To all of you who attended today, I thank you. It's said that a man doesn't know his true worth until he's dead. I am flattered that all of you are here. I also apologize for permitting this charade, but it was necessary to expose the culprit." He stopped and smiled. "Forty years in this country and I think that's the first time I've ever used the word." Laughter rippled through the crowd. "However, this is a time for us to be serious. I'm not dead, but many gifted people are dying from something far too vile to wish upon one's worst enemy. Don't let fear and misinformation rule you. I know that many of you think that AIDS is a gay disease or something that only prostitutes or drug users get. The truth is no one is safe."
A man in the back of the crowd stood and lifted his hand slightly. Illya nodded to him, recognizing him as a newly relocated minister at a local church. "Sir?"
"My name is Samuel Tucker and we have just moved here from Los Angeles. As my wife and family can attest, I am neither gay nor an abuser of drugs. I caught AIDS during a blood transfusion. It was a transfusion that was supposed to help me with my chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Instead, it turned out to be a nail in my coffin. I see this as God working in mysterious ways. He gives me a form of leukemia that is survivable, only to take it away by giving me AIDS. It's as if He is telling me that AIDS is not a punishment for certain segments of our society. He gave me this terrible disease to make people aware that it's not something that any of us is safe from, that is it something that must unite us against a common foe." He stopped and looked around, as if just suddenly aware of all the people watching him and his voice faltered. "I just felt that needed to be said. We're not monsters."
"Mr. Tucker, you are very right. If you need to hate something, hate the disease, not its victims."
"Amen to that, partner," Napoleon murmured, thinking back to Marvin Black, a man pushed away, shunned because he also dared to step forward and proclaim himself one of AIDS' countless victims. Too much and too many had already been lost in this battle.
Napoleon lay, happily sated and content, in his partner's arms. There had been an edge to their lovemaking put there by the reality that their time, like everyone else's on the planet, was numbered in days, weeks, months. Nothing they could do could stop death from taking them at a moment's notice. Back when they were in UNCLE, both Napoleon and Illya knew that. It drove them, made them cherish each moment they had together. Lately, though, they had lost that edge; they had felt safe, protected, and invincible. Napoleon was even more determined to get Illya to retire. Napoleon didn't care if they spent the rest of their days traveling or just sitting on the porch watching the raptors ride the currents, just as long as they did it together.
"Where are you?" Illya's voice was a mere whisper in Napoleon's ear. "You seem far away."
"Not anymore." He brought Illya's hand to his mouth and kissed the scarred finger tips. "Now I'm home," Napoleon murmured, smiling as the fingers traced his lips.
"I did take advantage of the moment after your 'funeral' and invited Rev. Tucker and his wife to dinner next weekend. I hope you don't mind."
"Of course not. He seems as if he can use a friend or two right now." Illya brushed Napoleon's hair from his forehead and kissed it. "I'm sorry you had to go through all of that."
"It did make things a little too... real."
"Then let's take our minds from it and concentrate upon something else, shall we?"
Napoleon came down the stairs the next morning, his step jaunty, whistling a happy little tune. He kept one hand on the banister to keep from tripping over cats as they raced him to the bottom. That's when he heard Illya's voice, louder than usual and definitely more exasperated than he'd heard in a long time.
"Сукин сын!" Illya seldom swore, but now he did as he slammed down the phone receiver.
"What's wrong, partner? You are looking less than delighted with the world this morning."
"They cancelled my credit card."
"The bank. Apparently my just saying I'm alive isn't enough. I have to go down to a notary public and prove that I'm who I am."
"You have a passport."
"Which is in the safe deposit box that I can't get into because I'm dead."
"Good thing it's a joint account then." Napoleon slipped his arms around Illya's waist and pulled his resisting body closer. "After breakfast, we will go and get your passport and prove you are very much alive."
"There's another problem..."
"When we signed up for the account, what did they make us do?"
"Fill out some paperwork, put our fingerprints on file."
Illya held up his right hand and waggled his fingers. "And thereby hangs the tale. I have no fingerprints on my right hand."
"Then we'll close it out and open up a new one." Napoleon caught the hand in his and lowered it. "One thing about having you around, Kuryakin. You make life interesting."
"And death even more so."