"I'll get the check, you go tend to the car."
Over the din of noise in the crowded bar, Illya Kuryakin shot his partner a look that caused the third man, Mark Slate, to feel a shiver of ice go up his spine.
"Blimey, Kuryakin, no wonder THRUSH wants you out of the way. I bet they all just fall down from sheer terror when you look at them like that."
Napoleon Solo smiled; leave it to Mark to lampoon the surly Russian and keep a smile on his face. The Russian's expression did not soften, however, in spite of the good natured kidding.
"Very amusing, Mr. Slate.'
That last was punctuated with another icy glare.
"My objection, Napoleon, is to leaving you two in here unattended. I have no doubt that between here and the door at least two women will appear and deflect your otherwise good intentions, and I will be left sitting out in the car with the engine idling while the party continues in here."
Mark and Napoleon exchanged surprised looks and then simultaneously burst out laughing.
"Oh, is that all? Illya, my friend, I promise you that neither Mr. Slate nor myself will succumb to any feminine wiles… or offers."
Napoleon said that with a wink as Mark continued to chuckle. Illya was an odd one sometimes, his dour personality so unlike the affable Solo. It was a wonder, and a subject of continual betting, that the two managed to have a successful partnership. It was a boon to law and order that it worked so well.
Illya wasn't convinced, but turned towards the door, obedient to the plan laid out by his partner, and as he was sometimes reminded, superior. The blond hadn't quite made it to the glass double doors when two women intercepted his path, stopping him with their obvious flirtations.
Napoleon and Mark stopped to watch as Illya, always the gentleman, obliged the ladies with a polite exchange and then, unexpectedly, was taken in tow by the women as they all three headed upstairs and away from the entrance to the hotel bar.
"What just happened, Napoleon?"
Solo didn't know, but he suspected that THRUSH had spotted his partner and, utilizing the least suspicious looking duo in their ranks, successfully hijacked him.
"I'm not positive, but let's not waste any time finding out."
With that, Mark and Solo were through the doors and headed up the staircase that led to the sumptuous rooms on the second floor. A door closed just ahead of their arrival on the landing, indicating the room where they would find Kuryakin and his escorts.
Mark was flanking the right side of the door, flush against the wall. Napoleon knocked, assuming that it would be the fastest way inside and considerably less objectionable to the hotel management.
The door opened slightly to reveal one of the women who had been with Illya.
The Solo grin did little to help gain entry.
"Uh, yes.. well, you see … I believe you have something that belongs to … um… us."
Mark flung himself into the open doorway as Napoleon was doing the same, hurling the woman back against the wall just as a shot rang out. Luckily it was over the heads of both men, allowing Mark to dive forward and tackle the hapless shooter. The woman fell backwards onto the sofa, on top of Illya who was apparently unconscious. Mark pulled her up and took the gun that she had managed to retain during the struggle.
Napoleon had tied up the second woman with a telephone cord, gagged her and was heading to the sofa to check on Illya. In the space of about ten minutes a kidnapping had occurred, then a rescue and now, hopefully, some answers would be forthcoming.
Mark was still holding onto the brunette while her friend, a redhead, squirmed in the floor where Napoleon had left her.
"Now, why don't you tell us who you're working for and why you wanted our friend here. And what did you give him to knock him out like that?"
Napoleon indicated Illya with a nod of his head. The brunette scowled, just a little, and then relented.
"I'm Marge, that's Sue. We're private detectives, and your friend there is a wanted man."
Napoleon and Mark once again exchanged puzzled looks, neither of them ready to divulge any information to Marge and Sue.
"Really? Gee, I've known him for a while, and never knew him to be in any trouble."
Sue was mumbling beneath her gag.
"Will you please let her go? I'll show you my I.D. if you'll…"
Napoleon tipped his gun in Sue's direction, indicating to Mark to take off the gag. The rest could wait.
"So, you were going to show me you identification…"
Marge started to reach for a purse, but Napoleon was still wary.
"Ah, ah ah… Here, allow me."
With one hand pointing a gun at the pretty brunette (Napoleon had taken time to notice), he reached into the bag until he located a leatherette case, the type used for I.D. badges.
"Marjorie Eames, of West Edington, Colorado… You're an awfully long way from home, Marjorie Eames. What did you say my friend here is guilty of doing? Because, I really do think you have the wrong man."
Just at that moment a groan came from the man in question as Illya started the slow and painful process of waking up from a knock out drug.
"Illya, don't move too quickly, pal. We have company."
Marge looked puzzled at that.
"Illya? What kind of a name is that. His name's supposed to Arnold."
Mark tried to swallow his laughter, but it was an unsuccessful attempt.
"Arnold? Does he look like an Arnold to you? Blimey."
Now Sue was interested in the proceedings, and chimed in on the dialogue.
"Who are you men? I thought this one had a funny accent. Say, are you guys … Oh my gosh. Marge, I think we're in the middle of something … Oh dear."
"Yes, oh dear is right, Sue. If you can describe whoever sent you on this wild goose chase, perhaps we can help you out of whatever charges Mr. Kuryakin might be thinking of lodging. I mean, you did kidnap him, after all."
"Kidnap? Sue, you said that the man had proof. Good Lord, we were supposed to be ground breaking females in this business. Now we've … Kidnapping?"
Napoleon felt sorry for the women. It wasn't easy being ambitious in a man's world, and private detectives were notorious for the lives they led. Like a chess match of some sort, these two had become pawns in a game being played by a master somewhere in the background.
Now Illya was curious about everything. He had no real memory of walking up to the room.
"What did you give me? And who are you people? Don't you have children at home to care for?"
Marge was insulted by that remark.
"Oh, you're a real charmer, aren't you? I bet the women just fall at your feet to get a close look at those eyes.'
That slipped out.
"I mean … I am truly sorry. We thought you had deserted your wife and kids, skipped out… I am so, so sorry."
Marge was sorry. Sorry to have thought she could do this, and sorrier still that she wanted to look into those blue eyes… sighing didn't help.
Sue was certain that the man who had sent them on this fool's errand would be impossible to locate now.
"Look, we were given this job by a concerned father. He said that … Illya here, Arnold, had skipped out on his daughter and grandchildren. All he wanted was for … Arnold, to be brought back to Denver and to face his responsibilities. It seemed like a worthy cause, and we were paid really well.'
Sue looked at her partner and shrugged her shoulders as best she could, since her hands were still tied with the phone cord.
"I'm sorry. We made a mistake. How's your head?"
Illya took in the sight of the two women, his partner and Mark…
"It hurts, but if you can give us anything to help us find this man, it might get a little better."
Napoleon was thinking. Denver rang a bell, and then the bell kept on ringing.
"Illya, do you remember that affair in Boulder? You infiltrated the college campus and posed as a visiting …"
"A visiting Soviet poet. Yes, my performance was nauseating, but we did manage to catch …"
"Victor Rafkin. He had a father who we later found out was a member of THRUSH Central. I seem to recall hearing something about a threat to pay you back for incarcerating his only son. He referred to you as a bishop in Waverly's kingdom of do-gooders and law abiding patsies. Something like that."
Illya nodded, the headache surging onward with renewed energy.
"Yes, and you were the knight that he swore to topple from your steed. Chess references with all the grace of an artless thug. I doubt the man even plays."
Mark was listening, trying to take it all in. What a life they all lived.
"Okay mates, so what's the plan from here on out?"
Napoleon considered, stole a sideways glance at his partner whose own gaze was settled on the two women.
"Here's what we'll do. Marge, Sue … I suggest, first of all, that you forget this business and find yourselves a good day job that doesn't involve hauling in errant husbands. This really doesn't seem like a good fit for you two. Secondly, I'm going to give you a note to take back to your mysterious client. He'll understand. Just hand it to him and get out, because I'm sure he'll be waiting for you when you return home."
Napoleon wrote out the note on the back of one of his UNCLE cards; one word was its entirety. Check.
Mark, Napoleon and Illya left Marge and Sue to their preparations for heading home. The three men still had a schedule to keep and the rest of their current mission to complete. The only concession to the past hour was another quick stop in the downstairs bar where vodka and bourbon were quickly and efficiently consumed.
"Are we ready to depart?"
Napoleon looked to his companions as they all rose.
"Yes, and good riddance to this place. What a ridiculous detour."
Illya was heading out just as he had been a little more than an hour earlier. He turned suddenly, looking back at Mark and Napoleon, the question on the tip of his tongue. He didn't get a chance to say anything before Mark replied.
"No worries, I've got the check, mate."