Simplicity Williams was one of my Mary Sues at age 12 (in 1967); she was my projection into the world of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.” I knew enough at that age to insert original characters in place of the media characters, and to change Simplicity’s appearance so it didn’t mirror mine; but Alex Watson and Ivan Thornfield are clearly Mark Slate and Illya Kuryakin, my then-current heartthrobs. This unfinished piece survives only because it was one of the longest I produced as a teenager—and because I’ve always had a soft spot for Simplicity.

The piece is presented here exactly as originally punctuated and spelled. A paragraph crossed out in the original is included here in brackets. And, yes, the spy boss does change his name within a scene in the original manuscript.

“Simplicity Williams!” by Pat Pflieger (1967)
Chapter 1

Simplicity stood up with a sigh. She brushed herself off and peered into the cracked mirror by the window.

“Simplicity Williams!” a voice exclaimed behind her. “Whatever are you doing?”

“Oh!” Simplicity whirled around. “I’m just fooling around.”

“How many times do I have to tell you not to ‘fool around’ in the attic?”

“I won’t, Hannah.”

“Now go to your room.”

“Yes, Hannah.”

Simplicity ran pell-mell down the stairs. She glanced into the mirror at the foot of them. She wasn’t a pretty girl, she knew that. She had long, brown hair laughing, brown eyes, and a solemn little mouth.

Simplicity went into her room and shut the door.

“Oh fiddle!” she exclaimed throwing herself onto the bed. “I do wish Carrie would come.”

Carrie was the little blonde girl down the stret, and Simplicity’s best friend.

As if in answer to her call, she heard Carrie’s soft voice calling to her:

“Simps! Hey Simps!”

Simplicity opened the window and clambered down the trellis that was beside it.

“Great timing,” she said as she swung herself off the trellis and dropped lightly to the ground. “Let’s go to the graveyard.”

In answer to her friend’s questioning look, Simplicity explained as they ran. She was finished by the time they were in the woods.

“It’s getting dark.” Carrie shivered.

“What do you mean? This is the best time for spooks.”

“Ho, Ho.”

“Well you know we might stumble onto something.”

—And stumble onto something they did. For just as Carrie was looking behind an old tombstone...

“Hey Simps! Look what I found.”

“It looks like a bomb.”

“That’s exactly what it is, young ladies,” said a deep voice to one side of them.

“Thank-you for finding it,” said another voice to the other side of them.

“Who are you guys, the police?” asked Carrie.

“Well, sort of. My name is Mr. Thornfield.”

“Mine’s Mr. Watson.”

“I’m Simplicity Williams, and this is Carrie Carter. Now that the introductions are over, what is that doing here?” She nodded toward the bomb.

“I had the idea that maybe you two knew.”

“Why should we know?”

“I had the idea that you were the enemy. But, just to make sure, I’m afraid you’ll have to go with us to headquarters.”

“What will I tell my governess?” Carrie wailed.

“Does she know where you are?”


“Then why worry?”

“I’ll be grounded for a week!”

“Same here.”

“Come on girls,” Mr. Watson called out. “Let’s not stand here all day. We’ve got a world to save.”

As they drove toward the city, Simplicity asked who the enemy was.

“The enemy,” Mr. Thornfield said simply.

“Oh,” Carrie said dissapointedly.

“But you girls may be of some help.”

“Oh!” Simplicity and Carrie said together.

They by this time had reached an old house out of town. As they turned into the driveway Carrie recognized it.

“That’s Old Man Barkly’s place,” said said.

“It is?” asked Simplicity startled. She too had heard the tales about how the old man murdered his wives, (for he had been married several times) and then disappeared. He had never been found.

“That’s where we work,” said Mr. Watson.

“Did you know that Old Man Barkly used to bury his wives in the cellar?” Carrie asked winking at Simplicity.

“Yeah, and there’s a story going around that they used to rise up and haunt him. Drove the poor guy crazy. Finally, he just packed up and left. Never was found. Now people don’t even go in the graveyard after dark anymore, because...”

“You mean nobody goes there except you two,” interrupted Mr. Thornfield.

“Yes, but then I didn’t say we were peoples. But, as I was saying, they don’t go there because that’s his favorite time and place to be. Those who do go there sometimes report that they see a man walking among the tombstones, and mutering to himself. Just as they get close to him, an extra large tombstone or a tree hides him for a second and by the time they get around the obstacle, he’s disappeared.”

“Very interesting folktale,” Mr. Thornfield remarked. “Now let’s get going, shall we?”

Simplicity scowled.

As they went into the old house, Carrie drew a little closer to Simplicity. No wonder Old Man Barkly loved this place! There were cobwebs festooned in corners and against the ceiling. It was terribly musty and dusty in here, and very dark. Mr. Watson put his hand in his pocket and drew out a flashlight. Its light made a small circle on the floor.

He led the way down the cellar steps and paused on the last step.

“Come on, girls!” he called out cheerfully. “Surely you’re not going to stay up there in the dark because ole’ whats-his-name buried his wives down here.”

“I’m not so sure I want to come down here myself, now,” he added to himself.

Simplicity took one look at the darkness all around her, screwed up all her courage into one lump, and clattered wildly down the steps. It took much coaxing to get Carrie down, but she made it, and all turned around to see a white form scuttle madly behind a box.

“That does it,” thought Carrie. “Let me out of here.”

She tried to imagine herself running up the steps and being enveloped in darkness. She shuddered and thought better of it.

Mr. Thornfield ran forward and caught the little “ghost.” When he brought it to here, Simplicity almost collapsed with relief. The “ghost" turned out to be a large white mouse.

“Its probably one of our mice,” he said. “We’d better keep it.”

As he spoke, the mouse slipped from his fingers, and went racing across the floor. In an instant, Simplicity was after it. She pounced on it but just got a hold on the tail, which was promptly whisked from her hands. Fortunately the floor was dirt. Or rather, mud. She picked herself up, and looked around for the mouse.

Carrie by this time had joined the chace. In fact, Mr. Watson and Mr. Thornfield had too. The mouse was caught, and everyone emerged, only to find a rather old man watching.

For sometime, no one noticed that Carrie was not with them. She came out holding a bone, and looking rather pale.

“I—I think I found a bone of one of his wives,” she explained to everyone.

Simplicity giggled.

“That’s only an old beef bone,” she said.

Carrie looked at her in a disbelieving way, and dropped it.

At that time, a door flew open in one of the cellar walls, and a light illuminated all five of them.

“Uh—hi, boss,” said Mr. Watson. “Meet Simplicity Williams and Carrie Carter.”

Chapter 2

“Ow!” exclamed Carrie. “You’re scrubbing my ear off!”

Simplicity laughed. Carrie did look funny being scrubbed by one of the agency’s top agents.

“What were you laughing at?” Carrie asked as they walked down the hall. “Boy, now I know how they get confessions from prisoners. They set her on them.”

When they had reached the boss’s office Simplicity had succeeded in cooling down Carrie.

“You know, you girls look rather nice, clean,” Mr. Watson remarked as they walked in.

“It’s a wonder that we’re even here,” said Carrie sarcastically.

“C’mon,” said Simplicity, firmly leading Carrie to a chair. “Sit down,” she commanded.

Carrie sat.

Simplicity sat too.

“It’s a wonder that you can control that little tiger,” Mr. Thornfield said to Simplicity. “Just looking at her gives me a scare.”

“Oh, she isn’t like this all the time,” she explained. “Just when she’s in a bad mood.”

“Hmph,” said Carrie. “I am not in a bad mood.”

“Oh well,” said Simplicity. “Its no use arguing with her. She’s stubborn.”

“Look who’s talking,” replied Carrie.

“Shh,” warned Mr. Watson. “Here comes our boss.”

In strode the old man that had beenin the cellar. He had grayish hair and piercing blue eyes.

Simplicity looked first at Mr. Watson, then at Mr. Thronfield.

Mr. Watson had bright red hair and blue eyes that gleamed when he was in trouble. He was very adventurous.

In contrast, Mr. Thornfield was tow-headed and had green eyes. He was a real ladies man.

Her attention was averted when Mr. Watson said, “Girls, this is our boss, Mr. Thornton.”

“Now this is the real boss type,” she thought.

[He had gray hair and piercing blue eyes that to Simplicity looked as though they could look through walls.]

“Well boys,” he said. “I see you two have brought back a couple of females. Trust you to bring ’em back alive.”

Carrie giggled at that.

“Behold, the great silence is broken!” cried Simplicity.

“Now, girls,” Mr. Thornfield said. “We haven’t time for games.”

“Party-pooper,” accused Simplicity.

“You’re right,” Mr. Watson confided.

From that time one, Simplicity knew that he would be a very good friend.

“How can we help?” she asked suddenly.

“That is exactly what I was thinking about,” admitted Mr. Johnston.

“Sir, don’t we need some one to get into the enemy’s headquarters?” asked Mr. Watson.

“Yes, but isn’t it a little too dangerous for children?”

“If we train them right, it might work.”

“That’s it. It might work. And it takes 2 or 3 years to turn out an agent.”

“We could teach them the basics...”

“But they’re too young!” interruped Mr. Thornfield.

Mr. Watson laughed.

“They already know where our headquarters are,” he said. “Why not go all the way?”

“We-e-e-ll,” Mr. Johnston hesitated. “All right. But I am not responsible for anything that happens to them.”

Mr. Watson nodded. “I’ll take full responsibility,” he said.

“And what am I supposed to do?” asked Mr. Thornfield.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Mr. Watson. “You teach them to shoot, and I’ll teach them judo.”

“Oh what fun,” groaned Carrie. “I can hardly wait.”

“You’ll like judo,” said Mr. Watson. “It’s fun.”

“First, they’ll have to fill out a form,” Mr. Thornfield reminded him.

Simplicity wrinkled up her nose. “I hate to fill out forms,” she complained. “They want to know everything about you.”

“Even what you eat for breakfast,” put in Carrie.

“Our’s isn’t that detailed,” said Mr. Thornfield. “We just to know your name, rank, and serial number.”

Mr. Johnston pulled out a drawer and took out two sheets of paper.

“Here. Fill these out,” he commanded.

“Got a pencil?” asked Carrie.

Mr. Thornfield reached into his pocket and brought out a pen and a pencil. He gave the pen to Carrie and the pencil to Simplicity.

“Hurry up,” he commanded.

“All right, all right,” Simplicity answered. “Don’t rush me.”

“Ugh!” exclaimed Carrie when she had finished. She picked it up between thumb and fore-finger and gave it gingerly to Mr. Watson. “Here, you can have it!”

“Thank you very much,” he said turning to Simplicity. “I’ll take that,” he said pointing to the form.

“Now you two are in,” said Mr. Johnston.

“Great,” said Simplicity.

“You don’t sound too enthusiastic,” he observed.

“I am,” Simplicity replied, “but I’m not showing it. I’m very good at not showing that I’m afraid or excited or whatever.”

“Very interesting quality,” remarked Mr. Thornfield. “It might come in handy some time.”

Chapter 3

“Steady now,” instructed Mr. Thornfield.

“I’m being as steady as I can,” Simplicity protested. “I’m not used to firing guns.”

She held the revolver so that it was pointing toward the target and pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang and she was left with a smoking gun in her hand.

“How did I do?” she asked.

“You hit the target this time.”

“Good. It’s about time.”

“But you’ve still got to remember not to close your eyes while you’re aiming.”

“I’ll bet you closed your eyes the first few times,” Simplicity accused. “What was that name again? Ivan?”

“Yes,” he responded. “Now try to keep your eyes open this time.”

He handed her an unloaded gun and some bullets, and commanded her to "Load it.”

After this was done, she pointed the gun at the target again, took a deep breath, and fired. This time she kept one eye open.

“Did I hit it again?” Simplicity asked hopefully.

“Yes. This time it was nearer the center. Now try it again, this time with both eyes open.”

She did and almost hit the center.

“Pretty good,” Ivan said, nodding. “Now if you can only remember to keep your eyes open, you’ll pass. Keep practicing.”

Simplicity practiced untill she could remember to keep both eyes open.

“You pass,” came a voice behind her.

Simplicity started and turned around. There stood Mr. Watson.

“Mr. Watson,” she breathed.

“Alex,” he corrected.

“Alex,” she said, grinning. “How is Carrie doing?”

“She threw me today.” Alex gave a wry grin. “Boy was that mat hard!”

Simplicity giggled. “Now you know what your students have to endure,” she said. “Do I get to learn judo now?”

“Next week, you’ll start,” said Ivan. “Right now, what she really needs is practice,” he explained to Alex.

“Carrie needs practice too,” he answered.

Carrie walked in. “I threw him!” she announced triumphantly.

“I heard,” said Simplicity, “from the victim. I guess I’ll have to watch out now.” She gave a mock shudder.

“Guess what we’ve got now,” Carrie challenged.

“Lunch?” asked Simplicity.

“No. Chemistry!”

“Chemistry! You know I flunked that in science!”

“We’ve decided that you two will be chemists,” explained Ivan.

“I don’t understand,” complained Simplicity.

“You two are going to impersonate chemists in the enemy’s headquarters.”

“Neat!” exclaimed Simplicity.

“Its time,” announced Alex, looking at his watch.

Ivan and Alex started to walk out of the room. Simplicity and Carrie followed.

“Did you here that?” asked Carrie. “We’re going to impersonate chemists.”

“Isn’t that delightful,” answered Simplicity.

When they reached the laboratory, Alex hesitated. Ivan went boldly up and walked in. Afer a second, he motioned them in.

“This is Professor Martin,” he explained. “He’s going to teach you two chemistry.”

The thin man looked at Ivan sharply.

“That will be all young man. You may go.”

Ivan shrugged and he and Alex left.

Carrie watched their retreating bakcs with longing. She was rather frightened of this tall thin man with glasses.

“All right, now,” he was saying. “I will teach you the basics of chemistry.”

He walked over to a table filled with gleaming beakers and test tubes. Ont he shelves above it were bottles containing multi-colored liquids and powders.

Proffesor Martin reached up and took down a bottle filled with a colorless liquid.

“I’m going to show you what happens when you mix sulphoric acid and sugar,” he explained, taking down a bottle which contained white crystals.

Proffesor Martin poured the crystals into a beaker and poured acid over it. Immediately, a black mass appeared.

“Neat!” exclaimed Carrie.

“Would you like to try it?” the scientist offered.

“Would I!”

“Here.” He handed her the two bottles and a clean baker. “Don’t drop it!” he warned as Carrie poured acid over the sugar. The black mass appeared again.

“Gee, I’m going to like this chemistry!” exclaimed Simplicity.

“Now,” said Proffessor Martin, “I’m going to teach you how to make something that looks like poison, and tastes like poison, but actually isn’t poison.”

He took down an amber colored liquid and a bottle filled with white powder.

“This,” he said holding up the liquid, “is plain, ordinary vinegar. And this,” this time the powders “is plain, ordinary baking powder. Unite them and you have plain, ordinary foaming action.” As Proffessor Martin talked, he poured first baking powder, then vinegar in a beaker. The mixture foamed, then the foam melted, leaving an amber colored liquid.

“Vinegar is a weak acid,” he explained. “While, the foaming action loks quite deadly, this mixture is actually quite harmless.”

“Yeah, but if you’re a bad cook like I am, it just might prove fatal,” said Simplicity.

Proffessor Martin gave her a half-smile.

“Yes,” he agreed slowly. “Now here is another concotion. You simply mix........”

Their training went on for two weeks. At the end of this time, the girls were called to Mr. Johnston’s office.

“Well, girls,” Mr. Johnston said. “You have learned chemistry, shooting, and judo. Now you’re ready for the really big test.”

Simplicity and Carrie leaned forward. Just then, the secretary walked in.

“Mr. Johnston,” she began, “there’s been a slight change in plans. The enemy is waiting for a child prodigy. She’s coming today with her sister.”

“What’s the name?”

Alas, the world will never know. My plans for the novel obviously included the the substitution of Simplicity and Carrie for the prodigy and her sister, with Watson and Thornfield as contacts for the two girls. I seem to remember plans for the prodigy to escape from her captors and find her way to the enemy’s headquarters, with a resulting tense scene—I’d watched a lot of spy shows and knew what was expected! My fifth-grade teachers may be pleased to see that at least one of the experiments they showed us impressed me—though I still wasn’t sure how the spell the name of the acid that they mixed with sugar. And, of course, it’s baking soda, not powder, which foams in such a dramatic way when mixed with vinegar. (I wouldn’t drink it; it’s a pretty nasty combination.)

Having a character “stand up with a sigh” was a favorite opening in my works at that age, as was having them look into a mirror so I could describe them. Poor Hannah appears only to get Simplicity out of the attic, which is why she’s never described. No, I don’t know where the girls’ parents are. The girls are living at spy headquarters, though, so no one has any idea that they’re becoming spies.

How I envied them!

Copyright 1967-2024, Pat Pflieger
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