Practice

Practice

A bar, somewhere in the Pan Am Terminal, J.F. Kennedy International Airport.

"And you say lying is a skill?" the young woman inquired silkily over a pair of fresh martinis. Her companion, who she'd just met not more than thirty minutes ago, nodded. With all the planes delayed by evening thunderstorms, all there was left to do was drink, talk, and maybe flirt with an intriguing stranger. This one, good-looking, well-dressed and well-spoken, held promise for perhaps more than conversation.

"It is, indeed. I should know. I lie all the time. Everything I say is a lie and I'll demonstrate by lying to you now."

Lowering his voice, he swiveled on his seat and leaned closer to her, his elbow propped on the polished surface of the bar. "I'm a secret agent working for an international security organization that insures world peace."

Caught by surprise, the woman immediately burst into a fit of giggles. "Oh, that's good! That's rich!" she said, complimenting his grave, documentary–style delivery. "Like James Bond then?" She reached for her drink and took a modest, lady-like sip.

"A bit, but we serve all nations, large and small. My partner is a Russian spy."

She continued to grin broadly, playing along. "How did that happen?"

"Luck of the draw. We work well together."

"And are you working now?"

"As a matter of fact, I am. And if we don't get where we're going in —" He checked his watch, an expensive gold Rolex. "— twenty hours, life as we know it will end on this planet."

"Oh dear," she replied, feigning deep distress. "Then you had better take off soon or some megalomaniac will no doubt try to take over the world."

"He just might." He smiled. "There, you see? You can do it too."

"All I would need is a few lessons from you."

They laughed together at the implied invitation, two people occupying an invisible bubble of intimacy circumscribed by a shared joke. The woman reached for her glass again, this time taking a more prolonged and thoughtful sip. "But wait a minute..." she said, considering. "If everything you say is a lie, and you just said you're lying to me now, then —"

Suddenly, the bubble burst as another stranger, this one shorter, blonder and appearing far more concerned, leaned into their private space and addressed the man. "They've switched us to another flight. It's taking off in five minutes."

The woman looked up and took the measure of this new intruder. Her smile returned. "And you must be the Russian spy."

"Yes, I am. And I'm a compulsive liar as well." He glanced at his friend. "We have to go, Napoleon —"

"Napoleon?" the woman said. "Is that some sort of code name?"

The man called Napoleon leaned close, turning conspiratorial again, and replied, low and breathy, "What do you think?"

But before she could respond, in the next moment, he was downing his martini, slipping off the stool, hefting his single overnight bag, and wishing her goodbye and godspeed.

"Having fun?" Illya Kuryakin asked when they were in the main terminal and well out of earshot.

"I was, actually, yes," Solo said grinning, obviously pleased with himself. "We'll be doing a lot of lying on this one. Have to keep in shape."

"You left that poor woman hopelessly confused."

"Oh, transatlantic flights are boring when you're traveling alone. It will give her something to occupy her time."

Kuryakin shook his head. "So: did you divulge our entire mission for your own amusement?"

"Of course not." Solo's eyes shifted as they hurried side by side toward the gate of their waiting flight. "Do you believe me?"

"Partners never lie to one another," Kuryakin observed sagely.

"You said that with a perfectly straight face."

"I did, didn't I?" Kuryakin said, a smile tugging at his own lips, and they both laughed.