THE GREYHOUND BUS AFFAIR
He pretended to read the paper spread before him, but instead studied the passengers as his eyes darted from person to person on the sparsely populated bus. Any one of the occupants could be the target. So far, the THRUSH courier he'd tailed had made no attempt to contact anyone.
Following the elderly lady (his skilled eye determined she was really a young woman with a fairly good disguise-- just not quite good enough) when she boarded the bus in Pittsburgh. UNCLE knew she was to pass an important microchip to another agent sometime before she reached New York. Once the new contact had the chip, he would take possession of it and return to UNCLE -- mission accomplished
He stretched languorously and pulled the knots from his sore muscles. He detested bus rides. They really afforded no room, they confined, constricted, and always proved tedious assignments. If he had known the wretched woman would board a bus . . .
He stared out the window at the scenery that passed in a multi-colored blur along the interstate. Idly he wondered what he had done to deserve this fate. Then he recalled the few injudicious comments of boredom he'd let slip. No excitement, no missions, no convoluted problems to sharpen the intellectual reflexes. In short, he'd complained once too often -- and here he was on the bus. All he'd done was traded one confinement for another.
The young couple across the aisle caught his attention. They laughed, whispered, and pointed at the man seated in front of him.
'No!' he dismissed instantly. They couldn't be the contacts. He' d allowed his naturally suspicious nature to run rampant. A long-haired young man with shaggy clothes; his innocent girlfriend with bleached hair. The youth of today on some kind of search - a quest, he deduced from their gear stowed on the overhead rack. Probably on a search across the country for some elusive ideal, some purpose to life, some direction like so many other young people. To find purpose. One day they will simply look deep inside with some inner mirror, and find themselves. They will find, inside, what they searched a continent for. Well, no one said life was easy.
He studied them again and fervently hoped they would not be with THRUSH. Somehow that would hatter this romantic illusion he'd concocted. Imagine: a sober, tough professional weaving fantasies around these kids. A true sign of the bored stagnation his mind had sunk to.
He altered his speculations to the man who so amused the couple. Surreptitiously he observed the middle-aged man in front of him. A very average salesman-type in a beige plaid suit and a bow tie. If the man was thrush their budget for clothing had certainly plummeted!
The bus slowed as it approached the next station stop. The elderly lady started down the aisle with a tight grip on an oversized shopping bag. The bus took a corner too fast and the lady tumbled against the man in front of him. She extended profuse apologies as she regained her position. As a parting gesture, she straightened the bow tie she'd knocked askew. The dexterity was almost too good to detect. Thus, the contact was made. It had been quick and skilled, but not skilled enough to get past the sharp, trained eyes of one of UNCLE'S top agents.
The bus came to a halt and the UNCLE man quickly stepped into the aisle and reached for his bag from the overhead rack. He duffel bag slipped and fell onto the man with the bow tie.
With profound apologies the agent excused his clumsiness then trotted off the bus just before it pulled away to it's next destination. He smiled smugly as he opened his hand and looked triumphantly at the infamous bow tie.
"And how is the happy wanderer today?" Napoleon Solo smiled breezily as Illya Kuryakin entered the office of the Chief Enforcement Officer.
Illya' s response was so arid it cracked with dryness. "Very funny, Napoleon."
Solo chuckled in amusement. "Didn't enjoy your little cross-country junket, I take it?"
"Next time you can take it. This is the last time I let you corner me into an assignment -- on a bus, Napoleon!" The Russian complained with great exaggeration. He flexed the still-cramped muscles, which still protested the rigorous trip.
Amused, Solo knew he couldn't kid the taciturn blond too far. At least Illya had escaped the close grey walls of HQ for a while. After too long they had a tendency to suffocate if a field assignment didn't come along often enough.
"All right, lllya. Now, enough complaints. What about the microchip?"
"Oh yea. I brought it back for you, of course. Plus," the blue eyes gleamed with mischief, "a little something extra"
Kuryakin drew something out of his pocket and tossed it onto Solo's desk. The hideous knot of material landed with a plop. Napoleon grimaced as he poked it with a circumspect finger. He finally lifted it with thumb and forefinger and studied it with the interest a scientist would take in a rat with bubonic plague.
"What is it?"
Illya settled onto a comfortable corner of the desk. "Your microchip," he answered blandly.
Napoleon shook his head, the disgusted expression indicated the article had just received his strongest condemnation. To a conscientious, immaculate, natty dresser like Napoleon Solo, the tie was an insult. Solo was considered the fashion plate of New York HQ. Just being in the presence of the ridiculous plaid tie was a blow to the reputation of this man of style.
His tone was so supercilious from anyone else it would have had to be a studied response. "Must have been easy to spot him. No one but a very low-grade THRUSH would wear something as awful as this!" He shook his head, as if the offending article somehow. A personal insult against him. "I suppose he even wore a double-breasted jacket."
Illya shook his blond mop, a willing party to further the little game. "A beige gabardine suit." He leaned over and pointed to the knot in the center of the tic. "There is more here than meets the eye, my friend."
"You're right," Napoleon countered wryly. "But I'm too much of a gentleman to mention it.
Kuryakin took the tie away from his friend and placed it on the desk. "It's more than just a tie with a microchip, Napoleon."
With a few, quick, adroit hand movements, the Russian had pieces of plaid material scattered around the desktop. Than he spread an assortment or micro components on the blotter. He beamed in silent exaltation of his slight coup of surprise.
Incredulity spread across the handsome features of the dark-haired agent. "A camera in the tie?" Solo was utterly aghast. "No one puts a camera in a tie!"
Napoleon shook his head in abject disgust and disillusionment. Clearly the world had gone to wrack and ruin if spies -- even THRUSH agents - pandered in bow-tie cameras! It was too much for his sense of propriety -- beyond the bounds of decorum and etiquette for the professional espionage agent.
"A gabardine suit and a bow tie that's really a camera?" he repeated, as if it would help him accept it easier.
Illya looked at the plaintive American with amusement. "This should be cheered as an innovative technical achievement. Not 'Napoleon's lament,' "Illya insisted cheerfully "Sounds like a song. Perhaps I should put it to music?" he wondered, only partially to himself.
Napoleon frowned. "That's all we need," he offered sarcastically. "A singing UNCLE agent, with The Ballad of the Greyhound Bus."
"It does have a certain ring," Illya admitted hastily, as he tried to make it to the door before his partner threw the remains of the bow tie at him.
"Kathy I said
As we boarded the Greyhound in Pittsburgh.
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now.
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've come to look for America."
Laughing on the bus playing games with the faces.
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy.
I said, "Be careful, his bow-tie is really a camera!"
by Simon and Garfunkle