A bemused bartender at the local watering hole favored by U.N.C.L.E. agents, listened in on a conversation he was not surprised to be hearing. Spies were a superstitious lot in general, but there were some die hards who brushed the unexplained all off as nonsense.
He poured another Ballantine from the tap for the Brit, sliding it across the bar to him.
The man reached for his wallet, but was waved off, with a double tap of the barman's knuckle on the top of the bar, signalling the drink was on the house.
"I just wanna sit back and listen to this here discussion, if yez don't mind?"
"Not at all, no secrets here. Thanks mate, cheers," Mark Slate replied, raising his drink with a nod.
"I can't believe you ponces believe in this Friday the 13th palaver," Mark Slate countered, after taking a large gulp of beer from his pilsner glass.
"I had said it once myself that it was preposterous Mark, but the odds against the things that happened to me on that one single day were astronomical." Illya said, downing his shot of vodka.
"I tried warning you Illya," Napoleon added,"but you wouldn't believe me until you started getting jinxed."
"True, but you have made a believer of me."
"Jinxed Napoleon? Please that's a load of rot if I ever heard it." Mark snorted, and raised his glass again. "Here's to good luck mates, just to ease your minds a bit."
"Thanks Mark, but that doesn't negate the fact that it's Friday the 13th again. It can occur as many as three times in a year and I plan to be prepared." Napoleon grinned, holding up and assortment of talismans- a rabbit's foot, a shaker of salt, and a twisted Italian Cornetto horn made of silver...all to ward off bad luck.
Illya proudly displayed his own collection, a small Russian-made horse shoe with tiny bells hanging from it, a bauble called an Omamori that was a traditional Japanese charm inscribed with words of luck. He then pulled a penny from his pocket that he'd found laying heads up on the sidewalk, repeating the rhyme. "See a penny and pick it up, and all the day you will have good luck." He placed it on the bar next to his newly filled shot glass, then knocked three times on the bar top.
"Remember Mark, bad luck comes in threes. Has anything happened to you today that would fit in that category?" Napoleon asked cautiously.
"I don't believe in your superstitious nonsense. As far as I'm concerned, you blokes can keep all your trinkets." He retorted, then downed the rest of his drink.
A chair suddenly came flying past Marks head, missing him by a hairs breath, while Napoleon and Illya ducked for cover. A bar fight had broken out with bodies, fists and furniture hurtling in every direction.
"Time to make a hasty retreat," Illya barked, but as he took one step from the bar his nose was met with a fist, sending him reeling backwards.
A large man stepped up and grabbed Napoleon by his lapels. "What are you looking at Mr. Fancypants?"
"Now just hold on a minute, I'm an innocent bystander," he said, holding on tightly to his good luck charms.
"Yeah right!" Came the reply as he was hoisted in the air and tossed across the room.
After watching his fellow agents go down for the count, Mark decided to make himself scarce...it was only a bar fight and those two could take care of themselves. Besides, Mr. Waverly would not appreciate three of his top agents being involved in such an seedy altercation when off duty.
Mark slipped from his stool and walked from the bar amidst the free for all as if he'd become invisible. No one attempted to grab him, or took a swing at him either for that matter.
He safely exited the bar with a sigh of relief, seating himself on a bench outside on the sidewalk to wait for the others.
Several minutes later the battered and bruised team of Solo and Kuryakin emerged.
"How the hell did you get out of there without so much as a scratch?" Napoleon coughed, wiping blood away from his split lip. "And don't say you were lucky." He perused his torn suit jacket, wondering if it could be put on an expense report even though the damage occurred technically on his own time.
Illya dropped onto the bench beside Slate, lowering his head as he applied pressure to a bloody nose, and wiped it with his handkerchief. "I think it is broken," he bemoaned unhappily.
"So you still don't believe in Friday the 13th Mark?" Napoleon stared at him.
"Pure coincidence mate, as your Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect." Now why don't we toodle off to headquarters and get you two up to medical and have you tended to?"
Napoleon was not sure if he should be insulted by that quote, and thought for a second that it sounded like something Illya would have said, before he became a believer.
"And have Mr. Waverly find out?" Illya interrupted, giving Mark the stink eye. "I think not. Napoleon do you have any vodka at your place?"
"In the freezer and enough to ward off anything and lots of ice too. Coming Mark?"
"No thanks guv, I think I'll take my chances at another bar. I feel like being out and about tonight."
As Illya and Napoleon hobbled off, Mark Slate reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out the four-leaf clover he'd found growing through a crack in the sidewalk outside of headquarters that morning. He gave it a little kiss, and popped it back into his breast pocket as he went off in search of another drinking establishment.
He snickered, knowing that he'd pulled one over on his fellow agents and with a little luck, they wouldn't find out.