The Power of Suggestion
"Just kill him, and do it quickly."
Serena strolled around me, her fingertips walking across my shoulders. "Oh, Egret, you have so little imagination."
The doctor's patience was wearing thin. "I suppose you want to set up some elaborate method of execution that will give his partner all night to rescue him."
Serena was in front of me again, observing my predicament. I was tied to an uncomfortable straight-backed chair with several pairs of nylon stockings, different shades of which suggested that each of the ladies had contributed to the cause.
Serena bent down and looked into my eyes with her unflappable cosmopolitan air. I gazed back, communicating boredom. "Keeping Napoleon Solo happy has served me well. My relationship with him is of immense value to Thrush."
Egret sneered. "Is that why you shot our agent instead of him?"
Serena would not be perturbed by her more cutthroat colleague. "I've taken a refresher course in marksmanship since then, dearest."
Egret growled her frustration at being robbed of the pleasure of eliminating me permanently, but conceded. "Then what do you suggest?"
I was surprised that she was bowing to Serena's wishes. Perhaps the cool Serena was higher in the Thrush echelon than UNCLE had perceived. I made a mental note to advise Napoleon.
"All we need is a delay", Serena said thoughtfully. "Something to distract Solo and Kuryakin while we catch our plane and get safely out of UNCLE's reach." She crooked a finger at Egret and the doctor followed her to a corner of the swank hotel room.
They were turned away from me, but a few phrases of the hushed conversation managed to reach my ears. It helped that I held my breath.
". . . you must know how to do it . . . not susceptible . . . drugs should help . . . ridiculous . . . it'll be fun . . ."
With a relenting sigh, Egret went to the door where her medical bag sat with the rest of their luggage, ready for departure. She took it to the bed behind me and began rummaging through her anti-Hippocratic tools.
Serena came to my side and shoved my sleeve above my biceps. There was no possibility of escaping whatever they had planned for me, so I simply concentrated on making my mind a blank. I winced as Egret shoved the needle into my arm none too gently, then seated herself in front of me in a chair that matched my own. She stared into my eyes and appeared to grit her teeth in order to speak in a gentle tone.
"Now listen closely, Illya.
I want you to relax
and listen to my voice.
Only my voice."
They must be joking.
"Your eyelids are very heavy now.
So heavy you can't hold them open.
You want to close them.
You want to sleep.
You will sleep.
But you'll still be able to hear my voice.
Do you understand?"
My eyes were closed and my chin was nearly resting on my chest. But that was no indication that she was in control. "Da."
"Now, when you are rescued . . . (this is idiotic, Serena)."
Another voice said something, but I didn't care what.
"Illya, when you are rescued, you will fall madly in love with the first person you see."
The other voice was interrupting, prompting.
"You will be obsessed with this person,
unable to stop yourself from touching him,
wanting to be alone with him,
wanting to make love with him.
Nothing will distract you.
Do you understand?"
My chin bounced on my chest once in reply.
"This obsession will last for twenty-four hours. Do you understand? Repeat that for me."
It was difficult to make my mouth move. "Ten fo ahs."
"Zakly," I mumbled.
"When I snap my fingers, you will wake up feeling absolutely miserable.
Your stomach will ache.
Your head will ache.
Your . . .Well, you get the idea."
Someone blindfolded me with a silky fabric.
"All right, let's get out of here."
I tried to obey but couldn't comply. There was some commotion in the room, then a snap of fingers and the slam of a door. I woke, fully alert, then doubled over at a lurch in my stomach. The movement made the hot liquid lead in my brain flow from back to front, and I choked down a wave of nausea. A series of chills went through me and I moaned as if at death's door. I tumbled to the side, taking the chair with me and landing hard on my shoulder.
I'm not sure how much time passed as I lay on the carpeting, still tied to the chair that felt more like a rack, every muscle and joint in my body aching, head pounding, stomach churning. I was so involved with the pain that I didn't hear him pick the lock and enter the room.
There were hurried footsteps and a flurry of activity as the blindfold and gag were removed behind me. I blinked, my eyes unaccustomed to the lamplight.
"You all right, guv?" Mark said, close to my ear.
I was a little fuzzy on what had been done to me, but didn't remember being beaten. "It's all relative."
"That it is," Mark said. He sliced the bonds from my wrists and ankles and I got onto all fours, every bone objecting. As Mark took my arm and hefted me to a standing position, I looked up to see my partner in the doorway. His eyes met mine, and all the pain flowed from my body like water going down a drain.
He looked at me with loving concern, big brown eyes communicating his anxiety. His brows were steepled, the two little vertical worry lines between them pronounced. His mouth was slightly open in hesitation, and a lock of velvet black hair had fallen over his forehead. He wore a dark blue suit, starched white shirt, gold cufflinks, shoes of gleaming leather. With gun in hand, he was polished yet rugged. Impeccably groomed yet masculine.
He was Napoleon.
He holstered his weapon as he strode toward me and swept a gaze down my body, lingering on the pile of slashed nylon stockings on the floor. He looked up at me again, searching my eyes.
His voice had a warmth that made me melt inside.
My sleeve was still pushed up and he took my arm and examined it, holding it carefully in both hands. "They drugged you, hmm?"
"Drugged me and hypnotized me," I said, a bit dreamily.
He cocked his head to the side and looked at me quizzically.
"Uh, Mark, why don't you bring the car around front."
"Right away, Napoleon." Mark left, closing the door behind him.
Napoleon let my arm drop and I swayed a little. Or swooned, I'm not sure which. He took me by the shoulders and steadied me. "Do you know where they went?"
I stared into his eyes. Big, beautiful eyes.
He shook me a little, and I shook myself back to reality. "Uh, to catch a plane."
He shook me again. "Now think. Did they say 'airport' or 'airfield?'"
I looked away from Napoleon so I COULD think. Unfortunately, I found myself looking at one of the beds, and my mind conjured some startling images.
"Illya!" he said, turning me toward him.
"I wasn't privy to the details," I said, waving a limp hand. "They could be anywhere on the Eastern seaboard."
Napoleon seldom showed exasperation, but he was making an exception this time. "Come on, let's go." He hurried me out the door, into the elevator and through the deserted lobby.
There was an awkward moment as I managed to get us both into the same compartment of the revolving door. We fit snugly together and I was in no hurry to move, so Napoleon reached around me and pushed both me and the door until we were freed clumsily onto the sidewalk. Mark had been double-parked a few cars down the street and pulled up as soon as he saw us.
Napoleon bundled me into the back seat but I wouldn't be shoved any farther than the middle and he had to squeeze in against me.
He raised his voice to Mark. "Do you feel like driving to Kennedy or La Guardia?"
Mark looked around. "My choice?"
"Yours is as good as any," Napoleon said.
"I haven't been home since Christmas," Mark said with a grin. "How about Heathrow?"
Napoleon looked at his watch, then looked out the window at the predawn light. "I'm afraid they've got too big a lead. We may as well call it a day." He motioned forward, directing Mark to drive on.
"That's an order I can handle," Mark said, turning back to the wheel. "Want me to drop you off at your place?"
"Yes," Napoleon said. He turned to look at me as I gave him a goofy smile. "And you, my dazed Russian, had better stay with me."
I slid my hand onto his thigh and he frowned. He looked sideways at Mark, then back at me.
"What are you doing?" he whispered.
"You're good at deduction, Napoleon," I replied, my hand moving ever closer to more intimate territory. "Guess."
He straightened a bit and moved my hand away. "Ah, what was this about being hypnotized?"
I grinned, but followed his lead in speaking in a hushed tone. It was a good excuse to lean into him. "Dr. Egret told me to do something." My hand wandered again so he captured it in his and held onto it. I had no objection.
"You mean she gave you a post-hypnotic suggestion?"
"I believe that's what it's called, yes."
"And you remember that?"
"She didn't tell me not to," I said innocently. My other hand was now on the prowl, and Napoleon's tone changed to a more professional one.
The formality brought me part way to my senses and I turned front and sat up straight.
Mark glanced at me in the rearview mirror. "Is Illya all right, Napoleon?"
"I'm afraid Thrush has been toying with his brain, Mark, but he'll get over it."
"Well, here we are, home sweet home in record time."
The car stopped in front of Napoleon's building and I fully cooperated when he told me to follow him. He said nothing in the elevator even though I crowded him against one side. He unlocked his front door and I entered behind him. I waited for him to turn around from locking it and met him nose to nose.
He held me by the shoulders gently but firmly. "Uh, Illya . . ."
"Yes, Napoleon?" I said in my most seductive voice, my hands coming around to the small of his back.
"Are you sure you don't have the urge to quack like a duck or something?"
I leaned in, my chest touching his. "I have no such inclination."
He physically put me to the side. "Let's sit down and talk about this, shall we?"
I followed him to the soft leather couch. He started to lower himself onto it, then to my disappointment changed his mind and moved to the leather wing chair. I rose to the challenge and sat on the matching ottoman, my knees touching his. His mouth twisted.
"What exactly did Egret suggest to you?"
"What does it matter?" I said with a smile. "All's well that ends well."
He looked back at me thoughtfully. "Give me your best scientific analysis of what occurred while you were under hypnosis."
He knew my weaknesses. I cannot resist giving a rational, analytical view of a scientific procedure. I sat back and concentrated. "I was injected with what I assume was a sedative, then hypnotized. I got quite sleepy, my eyes closed, and I became highly susceptible to suggestion."
Napoleon was studying me. "And what was the suggestion?"
"That I should fall obsessively in love with the first person I saw when I was rescued." I looked at him matter-of-factly. "And that was you."
There was an awkward moment as Napoleon appeared to ponder.
"So you could have fallen in love with anyone who entered that hotel room—a bellman, a maid, or Mark."
I frowned. The possibility was absurd. "I believe myself susceptible to hypnosis only under certain conditions."
Napoleon nodded thoughtfully. "You mean, a person can't be hypnotized to do something that he doesn't really WANT to do?"
My left eyebrow shot up before I could stop it. "That is the theory," I said, then added, "But I'm sure hypnosis brings many desires to fruition that would not normally be . . . acted upon."
Napoleon was looking at me differently. His gaze wandered down my body, lingering here and there. I felt both a tingling and a warmth growing inside me.
"Well, I'd be perfectly willing to, uh . . . fulfill a desire. That is, if it's only a temporary one."
If I hadn't been Illya Kuryakin, I would have expressed surprise. Instead I kept my reaction to myself, as we spies tend to do. "That's quite considerate of you."
Napoleon shrugged. "We're partners. Your welfare is my welfare."
"Well said," I said.
He leaned forward in the chair and squinted into my eyes. "You will now follow MY suggestions. Do you understand?"
My eyebrow twitched again, along with another part of my anatomy. "Yes, master."
He rolled his eyes at me, then stood and walked toward the hall that led to the bedroom. I followed, grinning with delight until he looked around at me, then sobered. I cleared my throat as I trailed behind him. "What exactly do you have in mind?"
He faced me as we arrived in the bedroom and he let his jacket drop off his shoulders. "The subject does not ask questions." He tugged at the knot in his tie, then flipped the tail of it in his fingers playfully. I smiled and removed it the rest of the way, leaning in for our first experimental kiss.
Napoleon stopped me and held up one finger. "Wait a second." He left me and opened a drawer in his dresser, returning with something bulky concealed in his hand. "I don't want to be accused of taking advantage of the situation. We should be on an even playing field."
He raised his hand in front of my eyes and let drop a gold pocket watch from the end of a long fob. I smiled, took it from him and began to swing it back and forth.
"You are getting sleepy—but not too sleepy. You will listen to my voice and do everything I instruct you to do. Do you understand?"
Napoleon closed his eyes, swaying slightly for effect. "I understaaaand." He seemed more like Frankenstein's monster than a man under hypnosis.
"You will stop being a ham."
He opened one eye and said under his breath, "Everyone's a critic."
"You will take off your clothes, and then you will take off mine."
He began to do so, much too slowly.
He had us naked in under two minutes, and accomplished the task with his eyes closed, his hands becoming very familiar with my body in the process. He stood at attention again when the deed was done, leaving me lying breathless on the bed, one leg over the side. I had managed to keep hold of the pocket watch and began swinging it above my belly.
"You will now awake, feeling refreshed and . . . aroused." I looked down to see that the latter was already the case, and that I was in the same condition thanks to some insistent fondling while my trousers were being removed.
Napoleon opened his eyes and looked at me. I could see fondness amid the lust there. And friendship. And years of him knowing me. We smiled simultaneously and held each other's eyes.
That was two months ago. And now we're sitting across from each other in the tiny lobby of an old hotel in Geneva, waiting for two Swiss UNCLE agents to meet us. It's 5 a.m. and we're a little tired from being up so late, rolling around together on a sheet on the floor after deciding the beds were too small for such activity. In an hour or two the adrenaline will flow and we'll be wide awake. But in the meantime, Napoleon looks at me as if he wishes we were upstairs again, and I return the favor. He decides to make a little conversation.
"Tell me, Illya," he says, "how long is this hypnotic suggestion of Egret's supposed to last?"
"She didn't specify," I say.
Odd how selective the memory is.