My daddy always told me that everyone was good at something, it was just a matter of finding out what. Some folks, the lucky ones, they find out right away. The rest of us, we gotta sorta hunt and poke around in the corners to find out what we’re good at.
Take me. I ain’t no beauty and while I made it through school, it was mostly because the teachers felt sorry for me, not having a mom and all. She died when I was just a little girl and the only memories I have are from a few old photographs and what my brothers and sisters could tell me. Daddy never remarried, so it was just the eight of us. Daddy said by the time Mom got to me, she was all worn out and just let go.
Sadie was the oldest and she sort of became my mom. She was always running around, taking care of us. Because of that, she was always losing things… all my brothers and sisters seemed to have a problem with that. I went a little slower and I remembered weird things like seeing something where it shouldn’t be. I became the family’s lost and found department, I guess you could call it. When they needed to find something, they came to me and I’d find it. If I didn’t, it was usually gone for good.
After school, I sorta bounced from one job to the next. Folks were kind and all, but I didn’t have much… um, hang on… capacity for learning new stuff. I tried and people liked me, but the truth was I just couldn’t get the hang of things.
When the weather was nice, I’d come to the park and eat my sandwich and watch the birds. Because of this, I got to know my fellow lunch mates pretty well.
There was the lady that always smelled nice and dressed pretty, but ate a half a sandwich wrapped up in an old napkin. I guessed that all her money went to looking put together to get some fella interested. There were some guys dressed in suits, but they sorta came and went. There was a babysitter, a nanny, I guess she was called, with three little ones that she watched over.
I was sitting there, staring at my tuna sandwich when I heard someone yelling, “Chrissie? Chrissie?”
I looked at it was that nanny. She was carrying one child and dragging the other by the hand. Her hair was all messed up and her face was stained with tears. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t find Chrissie!” She looked at me like I’d just graduated from idiot school. As much as I wanted to ignore her panic, I just couldn’t. Not when there was a child at stake and not when I could do something about it. I thought back to what I knew about the children. The first two were still young and usually either in a carriage, but the oldest, Chrissie, I’m guessing, was about four and independent. She was a little blonde mischief maker from what I saw. She reminded me of my little brother and he liked nothing better than to play… and I knew in an instant what was going on. Or at least I hoped I did.
I walked a little distance from the nanny and started looking under bushes and behind trees, any place a four year old might think to hide. Finally, I shouted “Come out, come out wherever you are!”
A bush not far away began to shiver and suddenly Chrissie burst out, laughing. “I won! I won!” She ran up to me, her little cheeks all red from joy and clapped her hands. “That was fun.”
“You sure did, but I think the next time you play hide ‘n seek with your nanny, you should let her know.”
“She’s too busy with the babies. She never wants to play with me. She doesn’t care about me.”
“That’s where you are wrong, little bird. She cares about you a lot. Then I tell you what. The next time you want to play, you come and get me. I sit right over there.” I pointed to my bench. “I’ll play with you. I got lots of little brothers and sisters.”
“Now, let’s got find your nanny.”
“Is she playing hide ‘n seek, too?”
I waved good bye to Chrissie and her very happy nanny and watched them disappear. It wasn’t until then that I realized she never even thanked me for finding Chrissie. No good deed, I supposed. That’s how some people were. They had lots of good things handed to them and they never stopped to wonder why or how they got them.
“I saw what you did there.”
I practically jumped out of my skin. “It’s what I do. Find things.”
“Anytime you want to get paid for having such a skill, give the number on this card a call.” Then he was gone, just like that.
“Thank you,” I said to the air. Just because he wasn’t there, there was no reason to forget my manners. That’s how I started working for UNCLE. My daddy said it was sera-something… sera-dippity, I think was the word.
At first, they gave me easy jobs. I loved hunting and looking for lost stuff for UNCLE. It was like a big giant scavenger hunt. The best was when I had to find a suitcase that an agent left behind. Some of those fancy foreign hotels, they were funny about giving stuff back, like if it was left, it was theirs or something.
The Section Two agents were especially bad at leaving their suitcases behind. Mr. Solo was always handing me a line whenever I’d call to tell him I’d found his stuff, but I knew he was grateful. He was an awful flirt, but he was always a gentleman to me.
His partner, Mr. Kuryakin, he was a favorite among all the women who worked at UNCLE. He was nice and polite, almost kinda shy in a way, even though I knew he wasn’t. I’d watched him with some of the other agents. He was well liked and no one seemed to bear him a grudge, him being a Russian and all. Well, almost everyone, but there are always a few bad apples. I won’t tell you what my Daddy called them.
I was getting some coffee for my supervisor and friend, Lois, in the Canteen one morning.
“I tell you, Illya. It’s no use.”
“Napoleon, don’t be that way.” Mr. Kuryakin scolded Mr. Solo the way I’d scolded my baby brother just that morning and it made me look. “Where is your optimism?”
“It went south with the birds… literally.”
“If that was true, then they still wouldn’t be here. And they are still here, otherwise, they wouldn’t have jumped you at your apartment this morning. Or when you left the airport or at the restaurant. Think, Napoleon, you must remember something.”
That’s when I really looked at Mr. Solo. He was all mussed up, like he hadn’t seen a pillow in weeks. There was whiskers on his face and his eyes looked so worried. I tsked and both men jumped.
“Lordy, I didn’t mean to scare you,” I said, nearly spilling my coffee in my hurry to get out of their way.
“Audrey,” Mr. Kuryakin said really slowly. “You’re good at finding things, aren’t you?”
“Did you lose your suitcase again, Mr. Kuryakin?” I tried not to laugh. He was always losing his suitcase. It was an old beat up thing, but I knew it meant something to him. Every time it came back safely to him, he always seemed so happy. Once I even caught him talking to it. Imagine that!
“Not exactly. THRUSH has lost something and they seem to think Mr. Solo has it, but he doesn’t.”
“Well, one of ‘em is wrong.” I set the coffee down on a nearby table, my original task forgotten. “Tell me what you’re looking for then.”
“A what?” I’d never heard of such a thing.
The men exchanged this look, it was a little scary in a funny way. “Let’s talk,” Mr. Solo said.
Next thing I knew, I was in a conference room with them and sitting at this great big table.
“I was leaving the airport--” Mr. Solo started.
“He’d just come back from Singapore,” Mr. Kuryakin cut in, looking impatient.
“Please tell me you brought your suitcase back with you, Mr. Solo.”
“I did.” Mr. Solo smiled. I hated dealing with Raffles, the hotel Mr. Solo liked to stay at.
“Anyhow, there was a drunk man on the plane and I helped the stewardess to subdue him”
“Calm him down,” Mr. Kuryakin said and then he smiled. He had such a nice smile. “Mr. Solo likes to come to the aid of pretty women.” He winked and I busted out laughing.
“Okay. And when you tried to leave the airport, some men attacked you?”
“Why, Mr. Solo?”
“The man on the plane was a THRUSH courier… he takes things from one place to another. Apparently, when he got to New York, he didn’t have the microdot on him. We later came to find out that he was defecting from THRUSH and was killed, so there’s no way to ask him.”
Instantly, I wondered about his family, his kids. They’d never seen their daddy again because of THRUSH. I hated them just a bit more. “Oh, the poor man, trying to do some good, too.”
“We figure that he passed the dot onto Napoleon, but we don’t know how. We went through all his clothes and couldn’t find anything. We even searched the plane and found nothing, except some change, a few condoms… other things.”
I thought for a moment and looked at Mr. Solo really hard. Then I started to grin. “Mr. Solo, did he say anything to you?”
“Not really.” Mr. Solo frowned. “It was just a bunch of garbled words, he was pretty far gone… no, wait he did say something that made no sense at all.”
“And you’ve just remembered this now?” Mr. Kuryakin didn’t seem very happy.
“I’ve had a lot on my mind, Illya.”
Those two fought like an old married couple and I let them go at it for a bit before interrupting. “What did he say, Mr. Solo?”
“It was right before he passed out. He patted my cheek and said, “I’m not a mole, you know. You are.” I can still smell his breath. Rye is not a good mouthwash.” He made a face at the memory.
I stood up and held out a hand to Mr. Solo. Confused, but willing, he stood and took it. I marched him over to the mirror. “What do you see, Mr. Solo?”
“Me and a very pretty girl.”
I blushed and resisted the urge to swat his behind. “Be serious, Mr. Solo.”
“You don’t look your normal self, do you?”
He started to run a hand over his face. “No, I need a shave—” He stopped then and looked really surprised. In his hand was the micro thingies. “I’ll be damn… blessed,” he finished and I laughed again.
“It’s okay, Mr. Solo. I know all the bad words. I have brothers.”
“How?” Mr. Kuryakin was with us now.
“Well, if it wasn’t on his clothes or the plane, I figured there was just him and there’s no better place to hide something than in plain view. That’s when I noticed Mr. Solo’s mole looked a little different. Not much, but just enough.”
Well, with a whoop and a holler, they were off and I headed back to the Canteen to get the coffee I’d promised. Lois was pretty mad until I told her what happened. Then she got really quiet.
“You did really well, Audrey. Section Twos, they don’t forget things like that.”
“Heck, I was just finding something. It’s my job, after all.”
About a week later, I was on the phone, arguing with some desk clerk in Paris about Miss Dancer’s cosmetic bag. She kept saying that she didn’t parlay vu English, but I knew she did a minute earlier.
That’s when I saw Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin. There was a third man with them. He was much older and everyone looked a little afraid of him.
“Hello, Audrey,” Mr. Solo said and I gave him a little wave. “Trouble?”
“Yes, sir. She says she doesn’t speak English.”
Mr. Kuryakin held his hand out and I gave him the phone. When he started talking, it was all Martian to me. He handed the phone back and we had a nice conversation after that. She was quite willing to help me. I never remembered to ask him what he said, though.
The older man made a noise in his throat and both agents suddenly stepped away from me.
“Miss Costello?” he asked.
“Yes, sir.” I stood up.
“I understand you helped these two agents out of a bit of a bind.”
“It was my pleasure. They are nice men.” I was blushing a little now.
“I think it’s time that you do something else,” he said.
“Ain’t I doing a good job here?” I loved my job and I did my best, but I couldn’t always get the suitcases back. He was getting ready to fire me and tears sort of started gathering in my eyes. I didn’t want to cry in front of Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin, but I couldn’t help it.
Instantly, Mr. Solo was hugging me. “You are doing a great job, Audrey. Such a great job, that we want to offer you a special one. One that is suited for your special gift.”
I sniffed and Mr. Kuryakin offered me his handkerchief. I confess that I still have it and it still smells a bit like him.
They did give me a great new job, with my own office and everything. I’m called a Procurement Officer and that’s just a fancy way of finding lost things. Sometimes I find things before they even get lost. It’s a lot of fun and it helped me find something else, too. I found what I was good at and that, as my Daddy says, is a beautiful thing.