Coming into the apartment, Napoleon nodded to Illya, who was sitting in a rocking chair by the windows, and continued to toward the kitchen.
A few paces from his goal, he backed up until he was looking at Illya again. No, it had not been his eyes playing tricks with him. “Where did you get that?” he asked, pointing to the baby that Illya was holding against his chest.
Illya kept rocking, rubbing the baby’s back in circles. “Someone was giving them away in subway. Out of a box.”
It was a measure of how strange his life had gotten since teaming up with the Red Peril and the Tiny Terror that Napoleon considered, for a moment, that he might be telling the truth. Deciding he didn’t want to know, he shook his head and continued to the kitchen to put away the groceries.
He was still doing his best to ignore the baby when it started making noises. Illya patted it and spoke softly to it in Russian, but soon it had escalated to full-out screaming. Carefully balancing it against his shoulder and holding it with one hand, Illya got up and went to the kitchen to put a bottle in a pan of water on the stove.
“You didn’t steal it from someone, did you?” Napoleon asked.
Illya gave him a withering look, got out a bag that had been half-hidden beside the sofa, and began changing the baby’s diaper. He made faces to distract the baby while he was changing it, and, when he was finished, blew raspberries against its belly.
In the kitchen, the egg timer dinged. “Go get the bottle, would you?” Illya asked.
Napoleon did. Illya tested the temperature of the milk against the inside of his wrist, then nestled the baby in the crook of his arm and began feeding it.
“It isn’t yours, is it?” Napoleon asked.
Illya gave him another look.
“If it is, I think I need to know. This is mission-relevant information.”
Not even a look this time.
“Does Gaby know about this?”
That got him a look.
Napoleon kept watching, waiting for this to make sense. When the baby finished the bottle, and Illya propped it against his shoulder to burp it, Napoleon got a little worried—the big guy could rip the trunk off a car, he could probably squash a baby like a bug if he wasn’t careful.
But he was careful, and the baby burped without incident.
“You can’t keep it,” Napoleon said. “I hope you know that. We’re spies. There are no babies in spying.”
Ignoring him, Illya rocked and sang the baby to sleep.
Illya shushed him.
“I really,” Napoleon whispered, “need to know where this baby came from.”
But Illya didn’t tell him. About half an hour later, Gaby came home. She appeared unsurprised to see the baby, but, like Illya, ignored all questions about its origins.
“Right, I guess I’ll start dinner…I was thinking paella.”
“That sounds good,” Gaby said.
“Whatever you want, Cowboy.”
Well, at least that proved he hadn’t turned invisible. “Will the baby be staying for dinner?”
Finally, after they had eaten dinner, there was a knock at the door. “There’s mama,” Illya said to the baby, in French.
He opened the door and there was, in fact, a woman who lived in their building. “Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Kuryakin,” she said. “Was my little angel any trouble?”
“None at all,” Illya said. “Did you get it?”
“I don’t know yet—they said they have another girl to interview tomorrow, and then they’ll decide.”
“Bonne chance. I’m glad I could help.”
She took the baby, and the baby bag, and left.
“You were babysitting,” Napoleon said.
“Why didn’t you just say so? Why the big mystery?”
“It was funny,” Illya said.