The Ten Masks, surprisingly, were stationed in an ordinary-looking house, if not a fairly sizeable one. The first thing I noticed when I entered was a guy in cutoff jeans and a t-shirt whose sleeves had been ripped off, sitting at the table near the door, working on some sort of mechanical contraption.
“Who’s this dude?” he asked.
“This is Kenny,” said Crimson. Mantis followed us in and gave the three of us a quick nod to excuse himself.
“Huh,” said the man. He looked back at the pieces scattered all across the table and resumed work. “Doesn’t look like much.”
“Kenny, this is Boston Black.”
I held out my hand. “Nice to meet you.”
He didn’t look up. “Can’t say the same. Beat it before I beat you.”
Crimson put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me past him. “He’s more than a little upset that he didn’t get to fight you. I think he’s still looking for a reason to, truth be told.”
“So…Boston Black. Is that…the Black Dog?”
“Nope. Empty City, actually. He’s sort of our technician. Bit of a gearhead.”
“I noticed.” I gently pushed his hand off my shoulder and he let it drop.
“But no, the Black Dog would be Fang. And you already know me, Magpie, Gabe, Phones, and Reaper—Red Cap, Convocation, Archangel, Choir, and Dying Man. And I’m guessing you’ve probably figured Mantis out.”
He pointed a finger at me and winked. “Got it in one.”
“So that’s you, Magpie, Phones, Gabe, Reaper, Mantis, Boston Black, and…Fang, you said?” I counted off on my fingers as I listed them. “So that’s eight. Two more?”
He stopped by a door and knocked on it. “Well, one’s the boss. Last one’s Wraith. He’s around here somewhere.”
The door opened. “Kenny!” An arm reached out and rustled my hair. “I’ve missed you!”
“Hey, Mags. Thought you’d be happy to see him again.”
“So who else knows he’s here?”
“Well, I came with Mantis, and Boston’s working on one of his projects near the back door, so we ran into him.”
“What, so I’m fourth to greet him?”
Crimson shrugged. “That’s just how it happened. You can take over if you want. Anyone else around?”
She thought for a bit. “Well, Wraith’s not in right now. Of course, if he was, you’d already know. Morty—” she gave me a glance, realizing I wouldn’t recognize the name “—er, Reaper’s not doing so hot so it’d be best not to disturb him, and Phones is still locked in his room. I’m sure he’ll meet at least Wraith and Phones at dinner. Jerry and Ben—that’s Gabe and Fang—are both downstairs, I think. And, you know, the boss is there too, obviously.”
“Great. You take it from here.”
She put an arm around my shoulder, much in the same way Crimson had, and led me down the stairs to the basement. “Glad you could join us,” she said. “It’s good to see you again.”
“I…guess it’s good to see you guys too. As long as you’re not trying to kill me.” She gave that shrill cackle.
“Kenny’s here!” she said as she approached two guys watching TV. Gabe I recognized immediately. “Kenny!” he said. He stood up and crushed me in a bear hug. “Sorry about trying to kill you before!”
“It’s…okay, I guess?” I looked at the couch, and the other guy looked at me. He was a thing boy, probably about my age, dressed in tight jeans and a black long-sleeved T-shirt. Shaggy black hair hung into his eyes. He gave his head a slight toss to get it out of the way, and that’s when I recognized him.
“Hey…I know you, don’t I? Benjamin, right?”
He nodded, then tossed his head again. “Yeah,” he said. Quiet, soft voice—not timid, just soft. “Met when you got off the bus in Arizona. Gave you that address.”
“But you said…you said you were a friend of Last’s.”
“Yeah,” he said again, just as matter-of-fact as the first time.
“He’s here?” came a voice from down the hall.
“Yeah, boss!” Gabe called. Thumping of footsteps on the carpet, then Last of the Last popped his head into the room.
“Hey, Kenny! Glad you made it.”