“Please tell me once more why we are here?” The question from the blond was devoid of real ignorance; he knew very well why Mr. Waverly had sent them to this wild scene filled with crazed young women. Napoleon Solo was equally dismayed at the assignment, his own plans for Friday night now another footnote in a long list of missed opportunities.
“Look Illya, I don’t like this anymore than you do. These fellas from the UK are creating a firestorm of activity and ...’ Napoleon extended his arm to the sea of screaming females... “noise. Lots of loud noise, and I don’t mean the band.”
JFK Airport was a mob scene that would only get worse. The UNCLE agents were assigned as an additional security precaution after plans for an abduction by THRUSH reached the New York Headquarters. No one else knew of it, no other agency would be handling the low level threat. It was doubtful that the Hierarchy had any real use for a band of long haired musicians who were virtually unknown in the United States. At least that’s what Napoleon thought. Looking out over the sea of faces as he tried to figure a way to stop them from screaming, he decided that perhaps the group was not completely without a following.
“What do you think makes them do this?” Solo remembered the furor over Elvis Presley, but it hadn’t looked like this. The music hadn’t sounded like the record he and Illya listened to earlier in the day. Sinatra... now there was a man who could sing...
“I have heard of these ... um, Beatles. They were making a bit of a splash just before I came to New York. I do not recall anything at all like this, however. This is...’ Illya shook his head in disbelief and bewilderment. “This is a form of insanity. Perhaps THRUSH has already gotten to the crowd and that is the actual threat of mischief.”
Napoleon considered it, dismissed it quickly. No, someone had actually put the word out that one of the band would be kidnapped. It had to be a mistake.
As the band came through double doors into a makeshift arena for the press, three dark heads of hair were immediately visible. The fourth was not nearly as tall, bobbing up and down as he kept pace with his bandmates. The four were escorted up to a podium and situated behind microphones, poised to answer questions from the skeptical crowd of reporters.
Surprisingly, the banter between the Beatles and the reporters turned into something very entertaining. The two UNCLE agents found themselves laughing along with the seasoned men who volleyed questions back and forth. Illya located someone near the back whose actions seemed out of place, his appearance a little too burley to be one of the reporters.
“Napoleon, see that fellow... over there? What do you make of him?” Napoleon followed Illya’s gaze and as he spotted the man in question a shiver of recognition ran down his spine.
“That’s Nate Thurmond, he’s a local THRUSH goon.’ At Illya’s questioning look Napoleon explained. “I had occasion to relieve him of his gun once, which he was pointing at me. I also left him slightly indisposed. He must the one who’s been sent here to grab one of the Beatles.”
A reporter with a camera and well used notepad happened to turn around and look straight at Illya. “Hey, are you with these guys? You look a little like they do.”
Illya looked completely dumbfounded by the question, possibly because he knew there was little if any resemblance to the four dark haired young men at the front of the room. At the same time Nate Thurmond saw Napoleon, recognized him and decided to make a break for the door. Today was probably not a good day to kidnap a Beatle. Napoleon sprinted after the THRUSH, leaving Illya to contend with the insistent reporter.
“I assure, I am not with ... the Beatles.” The man was not placated by Illya’s answer. “But, I mean you have that... you know, the hair. And you have an accent.” Another reporter heard the conversation and turned to see who it was. When he saw Illya he also began to conjecture that there was a ringer in the audience; another Beatle that no one had told them about.
“I thought there were only four in the band. Why aren’t you up there with the others? Is this some kind of publicity scam?” Illya was now thoroughly annoyed and started to walk away from the two men who were questioning him. As he did the first man reached out and grabbed the Russian’s arm, igniting a defensive mechanism that landed him on the floor with stars circling his head.
Illya looked the second man squarely in the eye. “I told you, I am not with the band.” Napoleon returned to find one reporter on the floor, another one backing away without taking his eyes off the blond. Illya stood resolutely in his spot, determined to not cause any more disturbance. Because of the focused attention on the group at the microphones, the incident had gone largely unnoticed.
“I can’t leave you for just a minute without someone needing a doctor?” Illya feigned ignorance once again, shifting to the obvious absence of the THRUSH whom Napoleon had chased out of the room. “And where is your Mr. Thurmond? He seems to have gotten away.” Smug. Napoleon disliked it when Illya had reason to be smug.
“He’s not longer a threat. I still can’t imagine what THRUSH could possibly want with any of these guys. I mean, it’s not as though anyone will know who they are a year from now.” Napoleon was still waiting for rock and roll to go out of fashion, something he expected would be the natural order of things.
“You may be wrong about that. But what THRUSH could do with it is still baffling, and I doubt that we’ll hear any more of it. Are we still expected to attend the show on Sunday evening? It may not amount to much, but perhaps we will be entertained at any rate.” Napoleon made a face as he considered the likelihood of being entertained by the group he was looking at now. Oh well, if the job demanded it...
“Yeah, well you may be right. I hope Ed Sullivan doesn’t lose his show over it though, he’s taking a chance that might ruin his career.” Illya nodded, but somehow he doubted that his friend’s estimation of the Beatles would pan out. He knew a little something about their popularity in England, and there was something about the music... It wasn’t jazz, to be sure, but still there was something there.
“Only time will tell, my friend.’ Illya would let the music be its own measurement. In the meantime... “The press conference is breaking up. Our duty is not yet over here; shall we?”
The two agents returned to UNCLE Headquarters with the sounds of the Beatles resonating across the airwaves. A report to write, then the anticipation of watching the show on Sunday night. At least Napoleon could still keep his date with Samantha on Saturday night.
Illya figured he might visit his favorite club on his evening off. Music, no matter the genre, was meant for enjoyment. He would relish his jazz on Saturday and then see what the fuss was all about on Sunday. Perhaps it would be something worth remembering in the years to come.
Perhaps it was.