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    "I don't know if I'd call that fortunate," Reilly remarked with a skeptical look.
    "It does mean that unlike their sixth member, they're not likely to simply fade into the background and run a shadow empire on us."
    "We can only hope. I've already told the conventional police forces in the area to be on the lookout for anything. I don't know how successful that will be. Phoenix, do you have your boys out looking for them?"
    "No, actually, I don't know what they could do in Chinatown anyway, and I told them to kind of avoid them, 'cause...."
    "The whole causing people to explode from a distance, thing?" Reilly supplied.
    "I'll go down and ask some questions, I don't know who's gonna talk to me." Talon shrugged.
    Next item. "We have an official request," Reilly informed us with a curiously stifled expression, "from the world outside of Boston. Apparently last night the Worcester Art Museum was robbed. About eighteen of their early American paintings were stolen by a gentleman, costumed theme villain, referring to himself as the 'Worcester Rooster.'"
    Phoenix Talon collapsed into laughter. I put my head down on the table and pretended the past few seconds hadn't happened. Thunderbolt was wearing his unflappable secret agent face.
    Reilly wasn't done. "And his—I have a security photo here—his 'hensmen.'"
    "Hensmen?" Scott repeated.
    "They're all women, with," he consulted his notes, "'wonderful breasts and succulent thighs.' Apparently he can fly and he has spurs on the end of his feet."
    "Let me guess, they have egg grenades?" Scott inquired, making a copy of the picture for Larry, whom he suspected would find this quite amusing.
    "Guns that fire eggs, full of gas," Reilly confirmed.
    "So we'll have to start checking out abandoned poultry farms?" I resigned myself. At least this doesn't sound too hard next to the Wuxia.
    "We have to take this guy down a peg, 'cause I'm sure he thinks he's the cock of the walk," Talon said, straight-faced.
    "Thunderbolt, hit him."
    "So anyway, if you could look into this, we already know how well the Worcester police department handles theme villains...." Reilly trailed off.
    "This is true," I agreed. "We'd hate for them to be embarrassed again."
    "By the Worcester Rooster."
    "I think that's embarrassment enough," Thunderbolt observed.
    "They're requesting, due to the fact that you're supposed to be funded for the entirety of Massachusetts, that while this imbecile is out there, at least one of you be stationed, until such time as he is caught, given the amount of time that it would take for you to get there."
    "Sure," I shrugged, shaking my head in despair. "Why do these people keep coming here...."
    "I'm still working on my theory that there's a maximum number of villains in an area, and the more of these we get, the less psychopaths," Scott explained.
    "Are we approaching it?" I pleaded.
    "What is it about Massachusetts," Thunderbolt agreed.
    Reilly shrugged. "Well, call me crazy, but I think this guy has 1-800-HENCHMEN written all over him. Big letters."
    "I'll go out there," Talon volunteered.
    I nodded firmly. "I think this kind of thing cries out for Phoenix Talon's... talents."
    That decided, "What else do we have on the agenda?" Reilly asked.
    "I have a couple little items of note," Thunderbolt spoke up.
    Talon interrupted him to let us know that the Alley Cats are no longer a threat, and Scott informed us that, "On the list of Things That Are No Good To Research, by the way, apparently the Building a Zombie in a Kit Tubes can be repaired and rebuilt from just about any scientific supply house these days."
    "So much for that," Reilly frowned.
    "Unfortunately, we can't run them down this way. On the other hand, if you happen to want to build a zombie, I have several now fully functioning tubes."
    "You know, we need better defense around the base...." Talon suggested.
    "Oh yeah, I really want to watch Holly's exposé after the first time the Defense Zombies arrive," Scott would have rolled his eyes if he had them. "I figure that would be bad. On the other hand, with a little work I might be able to turn them into healing tubes."
    "Have you gotten any other leads off of that whole thing?" Reilly asked.
    "Well, I'm pretty sure that the person, either the Resurrectionist or somebody who's taken over his gig, was the architect ten years ago on that housing project."
    "Keep digging on that."
    "Mr. Oscar R. Bouros," he added significantly.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson