The UNCLE agents ran towards their car, pulling the sputtering Scot along between them. If the man wouldn't fire a gun then he'd better duck and run. At least, that's what Napoleon was thinking as he pulled out his keys with his left hand while sending a THRUSH gunman into some bushes with his keen aim.
Illya pushed the other blond into the cramped vehicle, wondering not for the first time whose idea it had been to design something this impractical for the spy business. As luck (or the lack of it) would have it, Illya stepped back momentarily as Ducky was being shoved into the silver car, allowing the miniscule chance that he could be hit. And he was. The Scotsman yelped as his shoulder took a bullet, to which Illya replied with two shots into the crowd from which it had come, sending two more THRUSH to the ground.
That depleted their ranks sufficiently for the three men to get away from the scene as the patrons and staff of the diner peered out from the dingy eatery, all of them mired in awe and disbelief, and more than a little tinge of fear.
The silver UNCLE car was speeding towards the city and headquarters as Illya called in for a team to meet them at the Command's emergency medical entrance. Having done that, the Russian checked the wound of the now unconscious Scot.
"Ironic, he's the doctor and now in need of medical attention. Considering he was unwilling to use a weapon…"
Napoleon turned his attention from the road, just momentarily, to respond.
"He has his standards; we have to admire him for that, don't you think?"
Illya nodded, although it made Napoleon wonder if it was an ascent or disagreement; sometimes Illya utilized the uncertainty.
"Perhaps he will reconsider his stance, especially if he is headed into a war zone. Still, I do believe this is a man of some moral conviction.'
A smile ensued, just as they were pulling into view of a gurney and an assortment of medical personnel.
"What are you smiling about, Illya?"
"Oh, just thinking of Shirley… and morals."
Just then the car came to a halt and doors opened, hands reached in to pull out the reawakening patient. All at once there was a suspension of activity as the nurse and orderly looked first at Illya, and then at Ducky.
"Oh… Is he?"
Illya shook his head.
"No, he is not my brother, my cousin or any other relative. He is however shot and in need of medical attention."
That set the two into action once more as the wounded blond came haltingly out of the cramped car and allowed himself to be loaded onto the waiting gurney. The entourage continued into the underground facility while a Section III agent took his place behind the wheel of the prized UNCLE car, if only for a turn around the parking structure.
Once inside, Ducky was rushed into a surgical suite in order to extract the bullet and make repairs where necessary. Illya and Napoleon headed up to Mr. Waverly's office, something they had been instructed to do in no uncertain terms. It was a short journey through the familiar corridors, wordless now as the two agents each surmised what their superior might have in store for them.
As the doors swished open, the sight of the venerable head of the Northwest Region (and possibly beyond), elicited an involuntary surge of propriety; their shoulders squared as they assumed the respective seats to which they were accustomed. The two didn't have to wait long for Waverly to acknowledge their presence.
The eyebrows shot up in mock surprise at seeing them already seated. Napoleon sometimes wondered at that, because of course he knew they were sitting there already. The expression reappeared almost every time these conversations were initiated.
"I understand you have been involved in some new intrigue that was not part of any ongoing operation. Is that correct?"
Not willing to look around at his partner, each man kept his attention on the elder in the room. It was Illya, however, who spoke up.
"Not exactly, sir. That is to say… I was involved yesterday, if you will recall, in tailing a known THRUSH courier who had been spotted leaving one of their suspected business fronts. It is operated by Pierre Auberge, one of Victor Marton's men here in the United States."
"Ah, yes. Well, that seems to have no resolution that I can see. How is that you have encountered this …'
Waverly shuffled some papers in search of the appropriate report. He had a record, of course, of all the intel and communications regarding the past two days activities.
"…ahh… a Mr. Donald Mallard, a British citizen here as part of a military attaché. He is headed for Southeast Asia, it seems."
The old man put down his paper and stared at the other two men in the room. Answers were required. Napoleon took this leg of the explanation.
"Yes sir, well… You see … Mr. Mallard was spotted by some men who are associates of Louie, the courier being followed by Mr. Kuryakin. They abducted him, Mr. Mallard that is, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in front of witnesses. We responded to that and …'
Illya cut his eyes to assess his partner's need for assistance, and decided to jump in.
"Sir, this Mr. Mallard looks a lot like … well, he looks like me.''
"Sir, he looks exactly like Illya. Exactly."
Napoleon's addition was greeted by a slight smile on the old man's face. It was a contradiction to the lack of emotion from just a few seconds before.
"Yes, gentlemen … uh, Mr. Kuryakin. I have seen a photograph of this Mr. Donald Mallard, and the resemblance is quite uncanny. I imagine it gave THRUSH quite a scare when they observed the two of you side by side."
A sigh of relief was the response of both Napoleon and Illya. At least Mr. Waverly understood the why of it. Things should be better now… hopefully.
"It still evades me as to how you ended up in a gun battle in front of a diner full of innocents. And now I understand that Mr. Mallard has been shot. Certainly not one of your better days, is it. And what of this Louie, the courier?"
Illya cowered a little. He never had completed the assignment and gotten the parcel the little bird was carrying. In reviewing his performance there was a twinge of embarrassment at such unprofessional behavior, all because of the sighting of …
"Mr. Mallard's situation provoked us into the action we took, sir. With an innocent in danger, and all of it on account of his resemblance to me …"
Waverly nodded his understanding. He knew the sense of responsibility inherent in the Russian's temperament, and that he would not have been likely to allow the other young man to suffer at the hands of THRUSH.
"Yes, Mr. Kuryakin. I see your dilemma.'
Waverly took a deep breath, raised his face again to peer at his agents.
"Very well. See to the young man, but get back to finding out what that parcel contained, and take care of this Louie fellow. If Victor Marton has anything to do with this then there's no telling what might happen next. Do I make myself clear?"
Two 'Yes Sir' responses resounded in the room. Illya and Napoleon rose from their seats and headed out the door and back to medical before going in pursuit of Louie and the missing parcel.
Ducky was in recovery by the time his rescuers made it to the reception desk to check on the ailing doctor. Being informed that he would be out for at least an hour or more gave the agents all the information they needed.
"Let's go and pay a visit to that storefront you mentioned, the one run by Pierre Auberge. What sort of business is it, anyway?"
Illya cringed a little, his anticipation of what might be required of him should they need to infiltrate the establishment was not pleasant.
"It is a male strip club. That is to say, the men do the stripping and women…"
Napoleon feigned a slight shiver, and then smiled at the prospect of going undercover … literally.
"Yes, I think I get it. So, who does the honors, tovarisch?"
From there the men from UNCLE headed to the formerly secret club, a scandalous sort of place among other skin baring establishments in a seedy section of Brooklyn. Illya had ascertained the nature of this business when he entered yesterday, but the presence of several recognized THRUSH goons sent him out the front door. Not before he got a look at the stage, however. Performing, if one chose to lend it that much, were two men clad only in what appeared to be what he thought was referred to as a G-string, and not capital letters at that.
Illya and Napoleon found themselves parked across the street from the Male Box, the front entrance made to look like a red and blue postal box complete with a guard outside the door dressed like a mailman. What else?
"Okay… This definitely looks like something you're more suited too, IK. Besides, you're more comfortable stripped down to your briefs than I am… must be a European thing."
Illya looked cross, his blue eyes now more of a worrisome grey shade.
"How do you come to that conclusion? You're the one who would welcome the wandering hands of some strange female. I absolutely refuse to go in there and…"
Napoleon reached into his pocket and pulled out his communicator.
"Ah yes, um… Mr. Solo. Are you at your destination?"
"Why, yes sir, we are. We were just discussing…"
"It seems Mr. Mallard has gotten loose. An unsuspecting secretary met him wandering in the halls and, not knowing he wasn't Mr. Kuryakin, relayed the information on your location to the wily Scot. This man may turn into a real nuisance. I expect you to take care of the situation, and him."
Illya rolled his eyes as Napoleon stammered a response.
"Uh, wow… all right… Yes sir. We'll be on the lookout. Mr. Kuryakin was just preparing to go into the club … undercover."
The smile on Napoleon's face was too much for the blond.
"Sir, the situation is completely untenable, and I …"
"And you will do whatever is necessary, Mr. Kuryakin. Am I clear?"
Reluctantly, and with a dangerous blue glare settled on his partner, Illya nodded in compliance.
"Yes sir, I understand. Out."
With that settled, Illya began stripping of his jacket and shirt, leaving him in a white undershirt and his trousers. He deftly rolled up the sleeves on the shirt, allowing some muscle in the lean arms to be exposed.
"Nice look there, tovarsich. Maybe they won't recognize you in your underwear."
If scowling were an artform, Kuryakin would have blue ribbons for his efforts.
"Not likely, Napoleon. THRUSH has, no doubt, an entire album of photographs featuring me in nothing more than my underwear. They have made a career of undressing me, in case you have forgotten."
"No…' laughter punctuated the gloom in the Russian's statement, all of it coming from his friend.
"No, I remember. Gee, Illya, they have magazines and clubs for that. Oh, wait, that's where we're going."
"I could punch you for that, but seeing as I have work to do…"
Illya opened the car door and ran across the street, inquired something of the man at the door and was shown in. As Napoleon watched his partner go into the THRUSH lair, he was suddenly aware of yet another blond man walking up to the faux postman at the door.
"Oh great! Ducky, you have great timing."
The young Scot was weaving just a little, a result of the painkillers he had probably received back in Medical. Napoleon wasn't certain of his next move, but with Illya already inside and Ducky chatting up the guard, things were bound to get busy real soon. From across the street, the American agent watched as recognition bloomed onto the THRUSH's face. Two men, same face, same day as all of the excitement of chasing two Kuryakins…
Napoleon bounded from the car, no longer able to justify sitting and waiting to see what might happen. Illya and now Ducky were in danger, and Pierre Auberge was probably inside and only too accommodating to the prospect of capturing them both.
The wounded doctor seemed to be insisting that he be allowed inside, and the postman guard was getting his hand on a communicator of some sort. Theirs still looked like walkie talkies, a momentary observation on Napoleon's part that made him glad UNCLE was at least more advanced in that department.
"Hey, I was wondering…'
Napoleon approached the two men, hopeful that the inexperienced Ducky wouldn't blow it for them.
"Is this a good restaurant, because I've been hearing a lot about your menu?"
The guard looked puzzled, and that hesitation gave Napoleon the opportunity to relieve him of his consciousness when he pricked him with a sleep dart from his coat pocket. Ducky watched the man falter, then took one arm as Napoleon grabbed the other, still laughing as though the man wasn't completely incoherent.
"That's some greeting you carry, Napoleon. I…'
The young blond seemed to understand now that he might have interrupted something.
"Is Illya inside? I say, I had no intention of disrupting your plans, only I…"
Napoleon put his hand up as they deposited the postman inside the club's front door. He looked around, expecting to see others, but instead heard only some conversation coming from the other side of the room, seemingly behind a large room divider.
"Sshhh…. No talking, just follow me and try not to get in the way. Got it?"
Ducky nodded, and Napoleon realized once again how much like his partner this man was. It was a little disturbing.
The two of them made their way across the room, intent on reaching the spot where Napoleon now recognized his partner speaking. Then he recognized the sound of a blow being landed on flesh, and Illya grunting in pain. Ducky stopped, his instincts on high alert as he looked to the American for direction.
Napoleon motioned for Ducky to go to the right, while he headed for the left hand opening to the room divider. Standing in the shadows now, Ducky's shoulder was suddenly pounding in memory of the recent bullet wound, probably from carrying part of the weight of the fallen THRUSH.
Napoleon was approaching the entry to the space behind the wall, the sounds of more brutality causing his stomach to knot up in concern and anger. As he reached the edge of the doorway, his hand was on his Walther…
"Hello there. I suggest you stop what you are doing and release my friend there."
The tone of his voice was chilling, and the two goons on either side of Illya stepped back involuntarily at the sound of it. On recovering some faltering bravado, one of them, Louie the courier, grabbed Illya and placed a tattooed arm around the Russian's neck, the implication clear.
"Well, if it isn't Mr. Napoleon Solo. We wondered when you'd find your way here. What are you two, Siamese twins?"
Napoleon merely smiled, a hint of danger causing the other THRUSH to take another step backwards. When he did, Ducky was behind him and conked him on the head with a large, heavy bottom beer mug. The man went down in a heap as his partner turned to see what the disturbance was. Illya took that opportunity to head butt his assailant, giving Ducky another opportunity for violence, which he reluctantly embraced. Donald Mallard was not a violent man.
"Good job, Ducky. Illya?"
The Russian straightened his shoulders and twisted his head and neck a little, to be sure.
"I'm fine, although I believe my approach was too easily recognized.'
A shy smile came over his face, glad to be rescued once again, although having it come by way of his double was a little disconcerting.
"I believe that we have missed Auberge. However…"
Illya headed towards a gaudy, framed display of photographs; apparently the stars of the so-called show were very photogenic as well as … talented. With a little effort, Illya pulled back the side of the frame and a wall safe was displayed. It was a matter of a few minutes and he had it open, pulling from it the envelope he had been following the day before.
"That's the prize, then?"
Napoleon and Illya both turned to look at Ducky.
"Prize? Yes, I suppose so, although we do not normally refer to these things as such.'
Illya passed it to Napoleon who tucked it into his inside jacket pocket.
"I suggest we head back to headquarters. There is no point in confronting anyone else here, although I think a little mischief might be in order."
Illya placed a small incendiary, retrieved from the heel of his shoe, into the wall safe. He shut the door, spun the dial and turned around with a smile on his face.
"I don't think there will be anything left for Pierre when he returns. Victor Marton will be very disappointed for his man to lose all of those important documents."
All three men smiled at that.
Back at headquarters, three men stood facing Alexander Waverly. If he was not completely astonished, the old man was at least a little intrigued by the sight of not one, but two blond men who looked enough alike to be twins. More than that, they seemed exactly the same.
"We are not quite perfectly matched, Mr. Waverly. If you look more closely, I possess a gap between my two front teeth. It is a strange occurrence that, and I suppose some day may see me altering it a bit, though only a wee bit as many a lass has told me …'
The others stared at the blithe Scotsman as he continued to explain the charm of a smile that was imperfect, each of them convinced that for all the similarities, the two blonds were definitely not exact duplicates.