Under normal circumstances, of which there were few, the bills might have made it past an unobservant customer and safely into the hands of the waiter, the co-conspirator whose only means of communicating with his comrades was the passing of money that they configured into cryptic messages.
Not today. Today the faux tip was left behind and the table quickly occupied again by someone who was looking for a clue. He found it.
"Open channel D … Kuryakin here."
The voice from the other end belonged to his partner.
"Illya, what do you have for me?"
The blond raised an eyebrow at the question; Napoleon's command persona was fully engaged.
"We need a revolution, all from the words on folded dollar bills. It is definitely the work of our little band of Bolsheviks. They must think themselves quite clever, passing notes to each other on …. on notes."
Illya had to admit it was clever, and original. Not even in his own country, where subterfuge was a way of life, had he observed anything quite like this. Of course, the Americans had very graciously provided the perfect sort of currency for this venture with their narrated paper money. So much writing seemed superfluous to the pragmatic Russian.
Napoleon was considering the situation, and whether or not to send his partner in to infiltrate this upstart bunch of revolutionaries. The decade of the sixties seemed to have no end of people bent on destroying what was holding the world together: law and order. It was his business to maintain that law, and the order when ever possible.
"Illya, I want to know if you think you can infiltrate this group. The waiter will be picking up…"
Click. The line went dead as Illya quickly closed his communicator. The cigarette case that wasn't one slid easily back into a pocket as the waiter approached his table. Deftly and with a degree of appreciation for it, Illya picked up the dollar bills that had been folded to convey the words intended for the waiter. He pretended to study them, looking up only when the man cleared his throat.
"This is your tip, I take it? He indicated the double meaning of the word as he fingered the money carefully, not letting the bills fall apart and lose the precious message. The waiter looked on nervously. Illya thought he was not a very good revolutionary.
"Umm… yeah, thanks man. You ready to order?"
Illya smiled, a knowing smile that conveyed a message not included within the folded dollar bills.
"I think perhaps I would like some Mao mixed with a little Marx, shaken… not stirred."
Where that last came from Illya would later blame on his partner's insistence on going to see Thunderball, the latest James Bond film. It served a purpose, however, when the waiter immediately made the connection of a Russian spy seeking to join the fledgling revolution.
"Hey man, that accent …'
The young man lost his sense of decorum and sat down next to Illya, who saw the name badge identifying the fellow as Jimmy.
"… where are you from?"
Illya took note of the man's name, deepened his accent and dove into this fully.
"Perhaps the better question is to ask you where you are going. Do you have any idea the path before you?"
That seemed to concern Jimmy. This had all started out as some harmless game playing until another spy had intercepted one of their members and talked him into some real revolutionary rhetoric.
"We have a plan … more or less. We're in the groove, man. We …"
Illya saw it then. This wasn't a political animal or a revolutionary. More likely he had simply followed a crowd of war protestors or listened to a speech given by some malcontent. If only these people understood the true nature of what they envisioned as the ideal society. It took more than good intentions and a false sense of self-sacrifice.
"You are amateurs, and if you are not careful the world will collapse around you and the real revolution will fail. Do you really wish to be responsible for subverting the True Revolution?"
The searing question accompanied by an icy blue glare caused Jimmy to sit farther back in his chair. The little café was noisy all around them with impatient customers waiting for the waiter who now simply sat and stared at the spy in their midst.
"The other guy … he said we were invaluable to the cause. He said…"
Illya knew the line, and he also knew this wasn't the work of his Soviet countrymen. THRUSH was venturing into the work of inciting a revolt in the United States that would allow them to slip into political office by offering men who would dramatically put a halt to this faux uprising. The movement was doomed to fail simply because it had been engineered to do so.
"The man who contacted you is an enemy of the revolution, not part of it. He has lied to you, and my superiors in the Kremlin have sent me to warn you and your comrades about the danger ahead should you proceed. You will have no support from the Soviet Union, and your rebellion will be quashed immediately. The Americans already know of you and will take every effort to insure that you fail … spectacularly."
Jimmy's eyes were wide open now; the prospect of being caught and jailed had somehow escaped the romanticism of planning a revolution. This man, with his stern countenance and hard-edged accent, seemed to know what he was talking about.
A tall man with a scowling face was approaching the table where the two conspirators sat. Jimmy jumped up, his world suddenly turned upside down. The revolution didn't seem like such a good idea right now, and his job was almost certainly on the line from the look on his manager's face.
"I've gotta go, man. I hear ya, and I will take your message back to my .. um.. comrades. Peace baby."
Illya nodded, loudly thanking Jimmy for his excellent service. There was no point in the boy losing his job simply because his dreams were skewered with political jargon and lies. Give him time to grow up…
The blond left a generous tip in place of the previous stack of bills; he would take them back to headquarters and see what could be done with any residual fingerprints or chemicals. With THRUSH one never knew for certain.
Once outside and safely out of earshot of anyone at the café, Illya opened a channel back to his waiting partner.
"Open channel D…"
"Illya, how did it go?"
Thoughtful for a moment as he considered his answer, Illya had a twinge of regret that impressionable youths could so easily believe that his country would foment a revolution here where he now lived. Worse, he wondered at the naiveté of any who would willingly participate. While protesting war these dreamers welcomed civil war on their homeland.
"I believe the revolution is on hold, and I am bringing back the mysterious dollar bills."
Napoleon thought he recognized a tone in his friend's voice that signaled the onset of melancholia. They would have drinks later and let Illya sooth his Russian soul with vodka and stories about his homeland.
"Come on back, partner. We'll keep an eye on them, but if you think it's done…"
"Da, it is finished. No revolution today, tovarisch."
Not today, and hopefully not tomorrow. Illya hoped in earnest that there would truly be peace without another war.
One day at a time.