"If I look anywhere near as ridiculous as I feel," lllya Kuryakin
complained in a loud stage whisper, "we are not going to pull
Napoleon Solo gave his partner's western costume a smirking
appraisal and adjusted the black string tie on his own 1870s
'gambler' tux. "Will you relax? Trust me, it'll work."
Unconvinced, Illya gazed warily down the broad, dusty street.
Lengthening shadows portended the imminent light-up of Reno's
myriad casino signs, including that of the Star & Garter, whose
garish pink facade decorated the corner just behind them. "I
still say this is a bad idea."
"Which idea is that?" Solo queried, tugging again at the tie.
"Digging up what Thrush is up to here, or posing as two bank and
"Both. And surely you might have come up with more original
aliases?" Kuryakin scowled. "Really, Napoleon. Smith and
Solo shrugged. "It's been known to work before. There happen to
be thousands of people named Smith and Jones."
"Yes, well, it's the alias-to-the-alias part that I don't
understand. You're supposed to be someone named Hannibal Heyes
alias Joshua Smith alias Napoleon Solo, and I...?"
"Jedidiah 'Kid' Curry, alias Thaddeus Jones, alias..." Solo
trailed off at the Russian's puzzled look. "Remind me some time
to introduce you to a marvellous American invention--television."
"Oh, that. I have one. It makes a marginally adequate bookcase
for Durant's world history series and a stray copy of 'Plutarch's
Solo grinned. "Let's just hope that a satrapy full of French
Thrushes are as TV illiterate as you are."
An athletic-looking man in a western waistcoat and hip-hugging
pants approached the saloon door, paused, turned back toward
them. "Pardon me," he said, "would either of you gentlemen have
Solo seemed suddenly to have lost his voice. He eyed the
stranger oddly, Kuryakin thought, as though he might know him
from somewhere. "It's 6:15," the Russian said when it became
clear that Solo would not answer.
"Thanks," the man responded, then stared at Solo curiously. "We
haven't met before, have we? Name's West. Jim West."
Solo coughed nervously. "Uh, no," he said at last. "Not
exactly. I just thought... Well, that is I, er... Ahem. No, I
"Oh. Well, thanks again." The man smiled and turned to enter
the Star & Garter. Solo stared after him for a prolonged moment,
then shook his head.
"Someone you know?" Kuryakin queried.
"Guess not," Solo decided. He turned toward the saloon's door as
well. "Dont wait up for me," he quipped, and promptly vanished
Illya glowered at the pink, tufted door. "I wouldn't dream of
it," he muttered, and headed off in search of a quiet corner to
await Solo's signal. While he waited, maybe he could finish that
copy of 'Roman Britain' he'd picked up at the airport...
* * *
"Twenty-four, red, the winner!"
Danielle LeVar watched the house dealer sweep chips from the
roulette table, including several dollars' worth of her own.
Sighing, she looked at the few chips she had left and searched
the table wistfully for a final place to try her luck. The crowd
pressed close, curious and hopeful. Other hands piled chips at
various junctures on the table.
"Try thirteen," said a voice near her ear. She turned to find a
smartly dressed young man with a friendly smile (was that a
period costume of some sort he had on?) openly admiring her and
the close-fitting gown she wore.
She returned the smile. "Thirteen? Surely that's _un_lucky, Mr.-
"Smith. Joshua Smith. And I've never steered a lady wrong yet.
"Danielle." She hefted the meager pile of chips. "Just Danielle.
This is all that's left of my ill-gotten gains. And you want me
to risk it on an unlucky number?"
He grinned. "Thirteen and black. It's a mathematical fact, you
see, that two negatives equal a positive. Therefore..."
"You're an expert on these things?" Danielle's green eyes
glittered in the uneven light.
He nodded. "Trust me."
Shrugging, she placed the remainder of her chips on thirteen,
black. Smith's eyes, she noted, never left her as the wheel was
spun. The ball rattled, jumped a few spaces, and settled into
the twelve slot.
Danielle sighed. "So near, and yet so far."
"Sorry," Smith said. "Must be a fault in the wheel. It was due
to come up thirteen. That's a fact."
"Oh well. Better to be penniless in Nevada than in a great many
other places, I suppose."
A darkly handsome man in a black coat and shiny vest approached
the roulette table and laid down a bet. Smith was momentarily
distracted, blinking twice at the newcomer as he greeted the
The dealer nodded. "'Lo, Wyatt."
Smith blinked again, regaining his composure with apparent
difficulty. "Well, uh," he stammered, "maybe I can make it up to
you. Over dinner?"
"Oh..." She turned away from the roulette wheel, leading him out
of the crowd toward the bar. "Thank you. But, I've eaten."
"Well, a drink then," he persisted, and when he thought she was
about to demur again, he added hastily, "Oh come on -- that's the
least I can do. Please?"
She hesitated, then surprised him by acquiescing. "All right.
On one condition."
Her eyes gleamed. "We can have the drink in my room, in say, ten
His surprise was quickly covered with another smile. "Anything
to please a lady."
"Good." She slipped a key from her purse and handed it to him.
"Make yourself comfortable. I just have to powder my nose and
I'll be right there."
The merest hint of suspicion flickered in the brown eyes and was
quickly gone again. He tossed the key in the air once, tucked it
into a pocket and winked at her as he turned for the stairs.
He was scarcely out of sight when a hand grasped Danielle's
shoulder and a raspy voice asked, "How's it going?"
Danielle spun. "Don't do that!" she said angrily.
Marcus Fogg withdrew his hand, looking sheepish. The Canadian
Thrush agent was a short, homely man with all the personality --
in Danielle's estimation -- of a flattened souffle. She detested
him, and did little to hide it, even when he haltingly tried to
apologize. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Just thought I'd check in.
Company security, you know."
She scowled at him. "I know all about Thrush security, Marcus.
And thiss is _my_ assignment. You're only supposed to be here as
back-up. And you are also supposed to stay out of sight!
Smith's partner could be here somewhere, and if he sees you with
"Oh," Marcus said contemplatively. "Yeah. Well, carry on, Miss
LoVar." He reached to tip a hat that wasn't there, said "Oh,"
again awkwardly, and dropped his hand back to his side. He
glanced nervously around the room before he added conspiratorily,
"I'll see you later."
Danielle silently entreated heaven for a graceful way out of
this. "Must you?" She turned her back on him and followed in
Smith's wake up the stairs.
* * *
Her visitor had already helped himself to the wine, and was
lounging in one of the parlor chairs when she came in. He rose
at her arrival and toasted her with the glass. "Hope you don't
mind. You told me to make myself comfortable, and I always take
a lady at her word."
"Not at all." Danielle eased the door shut and discreetly turned
the key. The action was far from lost on Smith, who still
closely watched her every move. She dropped her purse into a
chair near the door. "You'll excuse me for a moment?" She was
deliberately coy. "I'd like to change."
Before he could respond, she swept across the parlor and into the
bedroom, which door she also closed, leaving him to contemplate
that unexpected gesture in silence.
The 'something more comfortable' into which she slipped, however,
consisted of a pair of heavy pants with riding chaps, boots, a
man's shirt, and a broad-rimmed hat, under which she primly
tucked her long blonde hair.
The last touch was the gun, a custom silver-plate derringer with
its own quite-feminine velveteen holster. Despite its diminutive
size, it felt clumsy and far too heavy, but it was going to be
necessary. Danielle pulled the loaded weapon from the holster,
willing her hands not to shake, and moved back to the bedroom
door. She opened it just a little, and peered out in time to see
Smith stealthily unlock the outer door, check outside and then
return to his chair for another glass of wine. Always cautious,
she thought. Well, in his profession, you had to be, didn't you?
Opening the door, she moved on into the parlor and watched his
face fall when the gun came into his line of vision. He put the
wine glass carefully down on the table, then slowly took in her
outfit and allowed his easy grin to return.
"Now let's see," he drawled. "Is it Annie Oakley, Belle Starr or
"None of the above, Mr. Smith," she answered levelly. "Only that
isn't your name. It's really Mr. Heyes."
"Who?" he said innocently. "I never heard of--"
"Oh no," she interrupted. I know exactly who I've got, Mr.
Heyes. And so does Thrush. We have informants in many police
departments, access to wanted files. So when we require the
particular services of, say, a professional cat burglar, or, what
is your quaint phrase... safe cracker?... we simply acquire a
list. And you came top of this one. Thrush requires your
services, Mr. Heyes."
His mouth fell open for a moment, but again, he covered his
surprise. "Thrush?" he echoed, and his eyes strayed briefly to
Danielle noticed the glance, and remembered his opening the door
to look outside. Was the partner his file had mentioned out
there, waiting in the hall?
"You will come with me," she said boldly. "I know you carry a
gun. Just take it out with two fingers, please, and put it on
While he silently complied, she kept her eyes, and her gun,
trained on the door.
"All right, Curry," she said, deliberately loud. "Come in slowly,
with your hands in the air. No tricks." Nothing happened. Then
the sound of a fooffall came from behind her and before she could
turn, a voice, quite continentally polite, said, "Please don't
try it. Just put the gun down."
Heyes came up out of the chair as she let her gun fall. He joined
the blond blue-eyed Curry near the heavy draperies that covered the
window. Curry had apparently stepped from behind them. But the
window was locked...
"How...?" she began.
"Through the door," Heyes informed her. "I'd just locked it again
when you came back in."
"Do you mind terribly if we don't stand around chatting?" Curry
said anxiously to his partner. Danielle struggled to place his
accent and failed. Not American. Not European either...
Heyes produced a pocket knife and deftly severed the drapery cord.
"You won't mind sitting down, now will you?"
Frowning, she did as he asked, noting that he was careful to
retrieve his gun from the table before she sat down near it. He
also appropriated her derringer, then secured her hands tightly
behind the chair with the cord. He and Curry were about to make
good their escape when suddenly someone rapped loudly on the door
and Marcus Fogg's cheese-grater voice called, "Danielle? Danielle,
are you in there?" Heyes and Curry froze.
"Window!" Heyes said in an exaggerated whisper. Curry nodded, and
they scrambled for the drapes again as Marcus began pounding more
fervently on the door.
"Break it down!" Danielle called. "Hurry up, Marcus, they're
From behind her, she heard the window slide open and Curry's
accented voice whisper, "Now what? We happen to be on the second
"There's a ledge," Heyes replied. "And bricks you can use as a
ladder -- over there."
Marcus' weight slammed against the door from outside, but it held
"Come on!" Curry's voice urged, and with a scrabbling of shoes on
plaster, they were gone.
"Marcus!" Danielle called again. "Will you hurry up!"
Several attempts later, the door finally gave way, and a sputtering
Marcus Fogg fell headlong into the room. It took him another ten
minutes to get Danielle's knots loose; by the time they made it to
the window, their quarry was nowhere in sight.
"Not much of a head start," Marcus said breathlessly. "We can
still get them. Come on."
"Oh, no!" Danielle grabbed his arm and jerked him to a stop. "_I_
will get them. This is my assignment, remember?"
Marcus' wimpy moustache twitched up and down twice. "But you can't
go alone!" he protested. "You're a... you're a..."
"Woman, Marcus. The word is woman. And I'm surprised you
noticed." She started out the door, and not unexpectedly, Marcus
"But you've got to take me with you," he insisted. "This was my
assignment before it was yours."
"And you bungled it." They were on the stairs, and Danielle's
masculine costume was attracting a few astonished stares from the
casino patrons. She ignored them. American men, she reflected,
had recently given the world wonders as diverse as rock and roll,
the Apollo moon landing and _Star Trek_. Yet a cross-dressed female
still raised nearly as many eyebrows as a man in drag.
Maybe by some miracle the 70s would turn out to be a more
She turned on Marcus at the front door and silenced the gaping
crowd by shouting at him. "Get lost, Marcus!" Leaving him
standing, open-mouthed, she marched out the door.
Seconds later, before the crowd had recovered and begun to talk
again, she marched back through the door, held out her hand and
said, "Give me your gun please, Marcus."
Blinking, he mutely handed over his own pocket derringer. Danielle
took it and disappeared again out the door.
* * *
"Tell me again why we're doing this," Illya Kuryakin demanded. His
temper had not been improved by having spent the night in the
meager shelter of a bramble-filled ditch.
Beside him, Solo plucked thorns from his soiled suit and kept one
eye on the nearby train tracks. "Because Smith/Heyes is supposed
to be the best safe man in the west, and because I have an idea
Thrush wants to crack a safe or two -- probably in the casino
"But why the train? Wouldn't the airport be faster?"
"Train robbers taking a plane?" Solo clucked. "Besides, Mr. Curry-
Kuryakin, we want to get caught. How else will we know what
they're up to?"
"You might try asking them."
"Very funny. Let's just shut up and listen for the train, hm?"
"And if we want to get caught, why did we just go to all the
trouble of escaping?"
"I had to make it look convincing."
"Television," Kuryakin snorted. "Definftely too much television."
* * *
The train station was virtually empty -- no crowd and no train.
The next one wasn't due for an hour, and as Danielle had
anticipated, there was no sign of Heyes or Curry. But if Thrush
intelligence had been right about them, they would try to get on
that train. Probably with intent to rob it. Welfare and social
security checks may have replaced gold shipments in the railroad
mail, but the allure of train robbing had obviousty not diminished
for _some_ of America's hard-shell criminals.
Smiling, she walked back to her rented horse, mounted, and rode
east along the tracks in the direction the train would take. There
was something so... well, _satisfying_ about the sound of the
horse's hooves, the smell of the warm desert air, the feel of the
American west. Driving a car somehow betrayed all of that; she
would rather be part of it all in the tradition of the previous
century. From their costumes, Heyes and Curry obviously felt the
same. This might turn out to be an interesting adventure after
She picked up a likely trail not fifteen minutes out of the city.
Somewhere along here, they would have left the tracks and gotten
under cover to wait for a chance to jump on the passing train. But
She got off and led the horse, sure it would be soon and determined
not to give herself away. When the trail finally dropped away from
the tracks into a wooded arroyo, Danielle quickly turned back, tied
the horse to a tree where it could crop the grass, and settled down
Heyes and Curry had chosen this spot well. She was sure they were
here. It was just past the first rise and fall in the landscape,
so the train would be moving slowly, just picking up speed. The
perfed time to get aboard. And she would have to jump on from the
_other_ side, before they did, without being seen.
A sudden noise startled her, and the derriger was immediately in
her hand. When she turned, Danielle barely suppressed a groan.
She saw Marcus Fogg riding yet another rented horse down the center
of the tracks. _ Moron!_ she thought fiercely. _He'll ruin
everything!_ Before he could alert Heyes and Curry, she ran out to
stop him, grabbing the horse's bridle.
"What are you doing here?" she hissed angrily. "I told you to stay
Marcus bristled. "Can't let yourself admit you need me, can you?"
he said, overloud.
"That's because I don't. And be quiet, you idlot! Heyes and Curry
are probably hiding a few hundred yards up the way." She led the
horse off the tracks, then waited patiently while Marcus dismounted
and tethered the animal beside her own. Next time, she decided,
she'd have to forget about 'the American western experience' and
hire a car...
"How many times do I have to say it?" she seethed. "I don't need
your help, Marcus. I don't need _you._"
"That's what you think," he retorted, angry now as well. "Think a
lot of yourself, don't you, miss high-and-mighty female agent! Well
I have news. This assignment was never really yours at all!"
Danielle almost missed the signifcance of that, distracted by the
distant echo of a train whistle. "What are you babbling about?"
Marcus gloated. "Thrush didn't give this assignment to you. They
gave it to _me_. I'm not _your_ assistant, you're _mine_."
She glared at him. "You're crazy. They told me--"
"Oh, I know what they told you. Management wanted you to think you
were in charge. They figured you'd do a much better job that way."
Under his breath he added another imprecation against 'uppity'
women. Danielle ignored that. She was busy trying to think.
The whistle sounded again, and Marcus noticed this time. "Train's
coming," he muttered, and stood up.
Danielle made a swift decision. She brought the derringer back out
of hiding and levelled it at him. "Sit down, Marcus."
He turned, starting when he noticed the gun. "What...?"
"I said sit down. Against that tree."
"Not for a minute. Now sit!"
He complied, grumbling loudly when she took the rope from his
saddle and began to tie him. "You can't get away with this! When
I make my report, Thrush will have your head."
"No they won't."
Marcus guffawed. "Oh, no?"
"No." Danielle cinched the final knot. "They won't have a chance.
You see, I just resigned."
"You heard me, Marcus. I resign."
"You can't do that. No one resigns from Thrush! Besides, I just
spoke to Chief Thomas in the intelligence section, and-"
"I'm not interested."
"You will be. I managed to get a good look at your Mr. Heyes in
the casino, and at his partner outside. I thought I'd seen them
before. So I described 'em both to Thomas. Wait until you hear
who your friends are, Danielle..."
* * *
Catching a slow-moving baggage car was easier than she'd imagined.
After that, it was only a matter of hiding among the trunks and
mail bags until she heard Heyes and Curry jumping aboard a few min-
Curry pushed the sliding door back into place with a thud, cutting
off the roar of the wind. "All right," he sighed, and sat down on
a traveler-trunk beside his partner. "What's our next brilliant
maneuver to be?"
Danielle huddled in her hiding place, waiting. The wooden floor
swayed beneath her as the train gathered speed.
Heyes was still breathing hard. "I, er, don't know... exactly."
"I do." Danielle rose from behind the trunks, the derringer firmly
Heyes and Curry looked at each other and chorused a groan.
"Short trip," Curry said meaningfully. "Shall we?"
Heyes nodded. Ignoring the threat of her gun, they turned together
to re-open the door.
"Please don't do that." Danielle pulled back the derringer's
hammer, and both her subjects froze with their hands on the door.
Both men turned back to look at her, visibly nervous. "Don't do
_that_," Heyes said. "Please? Ladies with guns make me a
little... uh... well, edgy." He spread his fingers, glancing
sideways at Curry.
Danielle didn't waver. "Well then, ladies with guns who know how to
use them should make you do as you're told. Sit down, both of
you." When they hesitated, she added, "The train is moving too fast
to jump off now anyway. You might as well listen to what I have to
They sat down, reluctantly, and Heyes tried the 'winning' smile
once again. "Well, if all you want to do is have a nice friendly
talk, you won't mind putting the gun away, will you?"
"On one condition. When you get back to U.N.C.L.E., you take me
Astonishment crossed their faces. Then Heyes laughed aloud.
"Uncle?" he asked coyly. "Er... _whose_ uncle?"
"Oh, please," she implored. "It's been fun playing wild wild west
with you two, but honestly, Mr. Solo, how stupid do you think I am?
Do you honestly think every Thrush agent from here to the Kalihari
doesn't know exactly what you and Mr. Kuryakin look like?" She
hadn't, but then they needn't know that.
The Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent crossed his arms and rolled his eyes
heavenward. "Wonderful," he opined to Solo. "I told you it
"That is where you're wrong," Danielle told him. "It _has_ worked.
To my advantage. I wish to defect, Mr. Smith... or Mr. Solo... or
whatever your name really is. There is an U.N.C.L.E. headquarters
in Las Vegas, isn't there? You will take me there."
"Sorry," Solo replied with all the sincerity of a used car
salesman. "But you see, U.N.C.L.E. does have this little aversion
to Thrush agents. Nothing personal."
"I suppose I shouldn't expect you to believe me." Danielle sighed,
and pointedly released the derringer's hammer before putting it
away. "But I think you misunderstand. I really have left them.
I want to go with you."
Solo laughed again, and looked at his partner. "You know," he
said, "the last time a lady said that to me, her father came after
me with a shotgun."
"It's true," Danielle insisted. "You can check if you like. Ask
that bumbling idiot I left tied to a tree back there where we all
got on the train."
She'd no sooner spoken the words than a violent lurch tossed them
all to the floor. The screech of brakes was almost deafening as
the train slid to a halt.
Kuryakin rapidly disentangled himself from Solo. "Don't tell me
someone really is robbing the train," he muttered. "In Siberia,
they have much more civilized means of dealing with such people.
"I'm sure," Solo responded acidly. "But who cares why. We're
stopping. We can get off."
"Not without me," Danielle persisted.
Solo and Kuryakin exchanged a look, nodded to each other, then
advanced on her. Danielle tried to reach again for the derringer,
only to find her hands pinned behind her by Solo while Kuryakin
appropriated a length of packing cord from somewhere. As he pushed
her down onto one of the trunks and bound her hands behind her,
Solo said apologetically, "I seem to be making a habit of this."
Task completed, he came around to face her, moving so close, in
fact, that she could feel his breath on her cheek. "Maybe we could
manage a little fraternization with the enemy some other time, hm?"
The kiss he'd apparenfly intended to impart was precluded by the
train coming to a final jolting stop. Danielle wasn't sure whether
to be flattered or infuriated. How dare this egomaniacal American
assume she would be interested in _that_ sort of fraternizing! Then
Kuryakin had already thrown the door open and was peeking outside.
Danielle heard him groan. "Oh no."
"What is it?" Solo moved to join him, then groaned too.
"What is it?" Danielle echoed.
Kuryakin made a sour face. "Vienna, 1964," he said to Solo. "The
"What??" Solo peeked out the open door, squinting into the
crossdraft. "It can't be. Marcus Fogg?"
Kuryakin nodded solemnly. "The one and only."
Danielle struggled to her feet and hobbled awkwardly to the door.
Leaning out, she caught sight of the engine, steaming on the track
ahead where it had begun to curve to the left. In front of it
stood a waving Marcus Fogg, his lathered horse nearby. He spoke
rapidly to the engineer, hands gesturing wildly.
"Left him tied to a tree, did you?" Kuryakin said accusingly.
"But I _did_!"
Solo took her by the shoulders and guided her back to the packing
trunk, ignoring her protests as he sat her down. He tipped his
costume hat cavalierly and said, "Been real nice knowing you,
ma'am. Excuse me if I say I hope we _don't_ meet again."
He and Illya set themselves to the task of opening the opposite
door, then Kuryaldn turned back briefly to touch his own hat brim,
and murmured, "Dos vidanya -- maam," before they jumped from the
Danielle sighed in frustration as their running footsteps receded,
grinding in the gravel railroad siding. That, she supposed, was the
end of that. Slower footsteps approached the car then. Marcus,
probably, and the engineer. She heard Marcus' gruff voice say,
"Back inside. Come on!"
Two familiar hats appeared in the doorway. Solo and Kuryakin
climbed, sour-faced, back into the baggage car with Marcus close
behind. The Thrush agent carried a shotgun, probably obtained from
the trainman, which he held in a rather unsteady grip.
"Come on, Marcus," Kuryakin cajoled lightly. "We helped you out
of a tight spot once, have you forgotten that?"
Marcus clamored into the car, nearly dropping the gun in the
process. Danielle remained in shadow on the packing trunk,
momentarily unnoticed. The train whistle screamed, preparing to
"Sorry, gentlemen," Marcus apologized. "Not that I don't
appreciate your help, mind you. I just can't let it make a
difference. It's my job. You understand."
He'd moved to stand in front of Danielle as the train started
forward again, his back to her as though he hadn't even noticed her
"That's friendship for you," Solo was saying. "You're a miserable
ingrate, Marcus, you know that?"
The accusation seemed to disconcert Marcus. He lowered the shotgun
in an offended gesture, just far enough that it no longer pointed
directly at the two U.N.C.L.E. agents.
Danielle took advantage of the situation. She hooked one boot toe
around Marcus' leg and pulled. With a yelp, the Thrush agent went
down. Solo and Kuryakin were on top of him in an instant and
promptly relieved him of the weapon. In a moment, Danielle found
herself back on the packing trunk being further tied -- to a
disgruntled Marcus Fogg.
"Speaking of ingratitude," she grumbled.
"Sorry," Kuryakin said sincerely as the whistle sounded again in
the background. "Not that we don't appreciate the help, you
understand. But business is business -- _je ne sais quoi_?"
Behind her, Marcus Fogg wiggled against the constraining ropes.
"Thrush is not going to be pleased about this," he complained.
"They may yet be," Danielle decided. "Because the first chance I
get, I'm going to _strangle_ you, Marcus..."
Solo and Kuryakin retired to a neutral corner of the railroad car.
"Do you have another brilliant plan in mind as to what our next
move should be?" Illya asked.
"Well, as a matter of fact--" Solo began, but the sudden lurch of
the car interrupted him. In tandem, they paced back to the left
hand door, pushed it open, peered out into the rush of wind and
"Not again," Kuryakin sighed. "Don't any of the trains in your
American west travel more than a few miles without stopping?"
"Probably a cow on the tracks," Solo muttered into the breeze, but
then the slowing train rounded a bend and he spotted the figure on
horseback up ahead, a slightly stooped man in western gear, broad-
brimmed white hat, red bandana.
"Would that be Doc Holiday, Jesse James, or Butch Cassidy?"
Kuryakin wondered aloud.
Solo squinted as the train drew nearer. "I dunno, but he looks a
tad long in the tooth for a train robber..."
When they'd ground to a halt at last, the rider turned his mount
and rode back toward the baggage car. Both U.N.C.L.E. agents drew
their guns, ignoring Marcus Fogg's loud protestations that he could
be of tremendous help, if only they'd untie him.
Hooves crunched in trackside gravel. The rider drew abreast of the
car, tipped back his oversized hat. "Good morning, gentlemen."
Solo and Kuryakin chorused a stunned query. _"Mr. Waverly??!"_
"Most invigorating, the great outdoors," the older man
pontificated. "Perhaps the two of you should brush up on your
horsemanship. There's a most excellent 'dude farm' a few miles
"Ranch. Dude ranch, sir, and we... that is," Solo stammered.
"Well Illya here logged quite a few horseback hours in the Arabian
desert not too long ago and I--"
"He means to say we're delighted to see you, sir," Kuryaldn broke
in, tucking his U.N.C.L.E. Special discreetly away again as Solo
did the same. "Merely that the visit is somewhat... unexpected."
"Quite," Waverly agreed. Behind him, a black and white police
sedan screeched to a haft alongside the tracks. From it emerged a
tall, barrel-chested man in a uniform that included a shiny star-
shaped badge and a cowboy hat. He strode toward the railroad car,
grinned, and reached up to shake Waverly's hand.
"Thank you for the tip, Waverly," he drawled. "We got 'em all,
red-handed, trying to break into the Star & Garter vault."
Solo's mouth imitated a goldfish for several confused moments.
"Who?" he managed to ask at last, and glanced back at their trussed
captives. "We have the Thrush agents who were _supposed_ to be
plotting the break-in right here."
"Emphasis on the 'supposed,' Mr. Solo." Waverly dismounted and
without need of assistance, ably hoisted himself up into the
baggage car. The lawman followed suit. "Thrush seems to have lost
patience with these two," the head of U.N.C.L.E. informed them with
a casual gesture toward Marcus and Danielle. "They sent two other
operatives -- oh, and a _genuine_ safecracker -- to take over the
job this morning. Fortunately, our intelligence section was able
to notify the local authorities in time to thwart the entire
affair. I used the communicator frequencies as a homing device to
discern your location, and decided to deliver the news personally.
Officer Dillon did the rest."
Solo eyed the glittering U.S. Marshal's badge on the big man's
chest and raised an eyebrow. "Dillon?" he echoed incredulously.
Steel blue eyes assessed Solo's tailcoat and black string tie.
"Yeah, that's right." The tone of voice clearly dared Solo to make
any smart cracks. "And who are _you_ supposed to be, fella? Bret
Solo's intended response was lost under Danielle LoVar's renewed
protest. "Would you mind terribly postponing this mutual
admiration society meeting and untying me? I've been trying to
tell these... these... _persons_ that I wish to defect!"
Dillon sauntered over to yank both Thrush agents to their feet with
an iron grip on the binding rope. "Well now, I think that might be
arranged. But first off, we have a few other little matters to
attend to. You're both under arrest."
"What?" Marcus squeaked, squirming in vain as the marshal hustled
them toward the door. "You can't arrest us! We haven't done
"No?" Less than gently, Dillon pushed the bound pair out onto the
siding, where they struggled to maintain a balance as the
U.N.C.L.E. contingent followed suit. "Conspiracy to commit grand
larceny sounds like an excellent start to me," the marshal said,
and waved toward the train's engine to signal the conductor to
depart "Your little friends in my jail told us that much. Then
we've got..." He counted off on thick, callused fingers while the
train began chuffing noisily away behind them. "Failure to feed,
water and return rented property to the Paladin-Shiloh Dude Ranch,
abandonment of rented property owned by the Paladin-Shiloh Dude
Ranch, illegally boarding a railroad car..."
Before he could finish the list, another squad car pulled up and
disgorged a thin, squarejawed man in uniform, his breast pocket
also adorned with a badge. This one read, 'Deputy Marshal.'
"Hiya Josh," Dillon said. "Come to take charge of the prisoners?"
Josh nodded, tipping his hat to the U.N.C.L.E. representatives.
Solo was staring, open-mouthed, at the deputy. Kuryakin glanced
at the name pinned over the man's badge -- it read 'Randall' -- and
shrugged. It meant nothing to him. He nudged his partner as the
lanky Josh deposited his charges in the squad car and drove away.
Solo cleared his throat, stared after the departing car, then shook
"Nah," he said to himself.
"Do you think she was serious, sir," Kuryakin asked Waverly, "about
wanting to defect?"
"She'll have every opportunity to prove it," the older man replied.
"U.N.C.L.E. HQ Las Vegas and the Reno authorities have already
agreed to co-operate toward that end."
"I'll have to round up those rented horses," Dillon told them. "Be
seeing you back at the ranch, Waverly?"
"Oh, most assuredly." The head of U.N.C.L.E. tipped his own hat.
"Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Dillon."
"Guess I could give you two fellas a lift." Dillon nodded toward
Solo and Kuryakin. "Waverly tells me you can ride. Care to give
me a hand with a couple of nags?"
"By all means," Waverly said before either agent could answer. "I
dare say they could do with the practice. And I'm certain Msrs.
Cannon and Cartwright will be pleased to have their dude farm...
er... ranch property returned."
"Great. Let's go then." Dillon noticed Solo's puzzled look as they
started toward the car. "You all right, fella?"
"Cannon?" Napoleon muttered contemplatively. "Cartwright?"
"Never mind him," lllya apologized. "He's been watching too much
American television. Sooner or later, it atrophies the brain..."