Rachel Sellers smiled as the finished wiping off the necklace with the jewelers cloth and replaced it in the glass case. She enjoyed her new job at the jewelry shop, and had quickly become one of the best salespeople on the staff. This wasn’t too surprising, because Rachel had always loved jewelry and knew a great deal about it. After all, she had never stolen anything but the very best!

Rachel sighed wistfully as she thought back to those days. As much as she loved the riches it had brought her, she had to admit that there had been another element of her criminal past that she loved: the excitement. As the Raccoon, she had been one of the most famous thieves in the history of the city. And, there had been something especially thrilling about wearing that costume, which had clung to the café au lait beauty like a second skin. More than once, the Raccoon had escaped because some witness, cop or security guard had been so stunned by Rachel’s looks that he hesitated for a split second. A split second was all the Raccoon ever needed!

But, the hero called Gray Raven had captured Rachel. He had convinced her that she was playing a dangerous game, one that couldn’t possibly end well for her. Rachel hated to admit that Gray Raven’s dark, mysterious presence had left her smitten, but she wanted to make him happy. She served her time and went straight, taking a job in the one field, besides burglary, that she really knew.

Rachel’s memories were cut short by the sound of the door opening. She turned to look at the man, and quickly sized him up. He wasn’t a customer; the way he was dressed indicated that he could never afford their prices. There was something familiar about the style of clothes, the type of shoes…

“Can I help you, officer?” Rachel asked with a smile.

The detective nodded grimly, but his lips turned up ever so slightly at the corners. “Is it that obvious, Miss Sellers?”

“Since you know who I am, you know why I learned to recognize the law,” she quipped. “But that still doesn’t tell me how I can help you.”

The detective reached into his coat and pulled out an envelope, the contents of which he spread on the counter before Rachel. They were photographs of gems. The pictures showed enormous gems of incredible value. Rachel felt a distant longing.

“I’m Detective Jacobs. There’s been a string of robberies over the past few weeks,” the detective began.

Rachel interrupted. “You can’t think that I had anything…”

The officer waved her objection aside. “Not any more, though we did check you out. Actually, we’re pretty sure now that the thief was actually the Ostrich.”

Rachel was stunned. The Ostrich, aka Oswald Travers, was Gray Raven’s arch-nemesis, a cold-blooded and sadistic criminal. She had met him a few times, and bluffed her way through the meetings, but he had always frightened her. The man was insane. However, jewelry theft wasn’t normally his style.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Jacobs said. “It is strange. But here’s what’s even stranger. There are only three fences that we know of that could handle this kind of take. We’ve got them all under surveillance, and none of them have been approached. We were hoping that you might be able to give us the name of someone we don’t know about.”

“Nothing personal, detective,” Rachel said, “but Ostrich is nothing to play with. Have you contacted Gray Raven?”

Detective Jacobs looked around, although the two were alone in the shop. “Just between us, Gray Raven is out of town for a few days. With any luck, he’ll be back soon. However, until then we have to follow whatever leads we can.”

With a nod, Rachel pulled out a pad and jotted down two names. “These are the best kept secrets in the business,” she said. “If anybody in town in fencing those gems, it’s them.”

The detective smiled as he took the names. “My buddies on the force told me I was crazy to trust you,” he said. “But my gut told me you were square these days.”

“I appreciate the thought,” Rachel said. Her lips smiled, but her eyes were troubled. “One more bit of advice. If Gray Raven’s out of town, and you’re going after Ostrich, be careful.”

* * *

That night, Rachel was troubled. Detective Jacobs had seemed so nice, and most cops WOULDN’T give an ex-supercriminal another chance. She hated the idea that something might happen to him. But Ostrich had killed police before, and she was sure that he would again. If only there was some way she could help him! But she was helpless.

Or was she? Hadn’t she been thinking just today how much she missed the old excitement? Besides, she had always been attracted to Gray Raven. Perhaps, if she were to actually HELP the police, he might return her feelings… She went into her bedroom and pulled her old costume from under the false bottom in her hope chest.

Rachel enjoyed the thrill of donning the old outfit again. The sleeveless, tawny gray bodysuit hugged every soft curve of her lithe, athletic body. Her dusky arms and legs were bare, covered on the lower ends by the black gloves and high-heeled boots. The black was picked up again by the thong that she slipped on over the bodysuit and the matching eye mask. Finally, she slipped the headband atop her head. The jet-black band disappeared into her hair, leaving only the pair of gray raccoon ears visible on the top of her head. Rachel opened the casement of her apartment window, stepped out onto the ledge, and melted into the darkness of the night.

* * *

The old "Big Bird Frozen Food" warehouse had been abandoned for ages. It would make a perfect hideout, and Raccoon knew that the Ostrich had a thing for "bird" motifs. That had quickly become his trademark…that and his deadly walking stick gimmicks. She easily bypassed the security system on the skylight and entered the building. As she had suspected, she heard voices. Moving quickly along the rafters of the building, she found her quarry.

Ostrich was standing next to a large piece of machinery. He was a tall, abnormally thin man with long legs and brownish hair that was graying at the temples. As usual, he was dressed in a brown tweed suit and leaning on a mahogany walking stick with a gold handle. At least, that's what it looked like. Raccoon knew that stick could actually be anything from a blowgun to a laser rifle to an atom bomb.

"Ronk!" The Ostrich had a habit of starting most of his sentences with this nasal exhalation. Raccoon had always found it a bit annoying, but ignored that as she listened to him. "Our plan is nearing completion! Only one more gem, and we'll be ready!"

"Hoo hoo hoo," his companion laughed, as he stepped from the shadows. "I can hardly wait!"

Raccoon was stunned. The man was short and chubby, with wild red hair. He wore a loud yellow suit with a green tie and a small derby perched on his head. The Goof! He was easily as deadly as Ostrich, and now the two were working together. The curvaceous cat burglar knew that she was out of her league with these two. She turned to head back to the skylight from which she'd entered.

Her boot dislodged some dust. Ostrich, with his long pointed nose, was very sensitive to such things. He sneezed mightily and looked up. Spotting Raccoon, he aimed his cane at her and fired. A blast of compressed air knocked Rachel from her foothold. As she fell, she twisted her body and tossed a thin line from her glove pouch at the rafter. It caught hold, and the would-be heroine was able to swing to the floor in the nick of time.

"Raccoon!" The Goof said. "I heard that you'd been arrested!"

"Well, obviously, I'm out," she said. Raccoon's heart was pounding, but she reminded herself that her opponents thought she was on THEIR side. She had to use that to her advantage. "I heard you boys have been stealing gems. Shame on you, taking my schtick like that!"

Ostrich glared at her. "We're not involved in petty theft, my dear. We have plans for those stones!"

"Really? Do tell!"

Goof seemed excited. "They help power this machine that will sap the will of everyone in the city, and…"

"Shut up, you fool!" Ostrich backhanded his partner.

"Geez, big 'O'," the little clown-like man said. "She might be able to help us! She's a heck of a lot better at jewelry theft than either of us!"

Ostrich appeared to consider this. "You may have a point. Interested in a plan to rule the city, Raccoon?"

"Of course," she lied. "When do we start?"

* * *

The caper was planned for the following evening. The last gem that Ostrich and Goof needed to complete their machine was the Ruby of Runyard, which had been come from the local mines. The largest gem of its kind, it was currently on display for the local “Ruby Festival” at the Fair Grounds. While Ostrich took care of some technical details, Raccoon and Goof would steal the Ruby. The three criminals agreed to meet back at the warehouse and went their separate ways.

Raccoon, however, didn’t go far. A half an hour later, she broke back into the hideout. She was no match for her opponents in terms of viciousness, but felt comfortable that she could outsmart them any day! After all, to stop their plan she just needed to steal back the jewels they had stolen. And that was what she was best at!

The Mind Machine was large and complicated, but that case that held the gems seemed pretty standard. Raccoon didn’t know how they powered the device, but she did know how to open the leaded glass that encased them!

The alarm on the case was easy to bypass, and the lock held no challenge to someone of Raccoon’s skills. She wasn’t surprised; Ostrich and Goof were so cocky that they probably figured nobody would dare try to rob them anyway! Raccoon had owed some of her largest scores to others with that attitude. She reached into the case and grabbed a large amber crystal.

Pain shot up Raccoon’s arm and flooded her body. It felt like heat, tingling, and electric shock all blended together. She tried to remove her hand from the stone, but her muscles had locked. She thought she might have cried out before she lost consciousness.

* * *

When Raccoon struggled back to reality, she found herself unable to move. She was tied flat on her back, attached to a table of some kind. Her wrists had been lashed together and pulled over her head, with the rope disappearing over the edge of the table and tied off out of sight. Her ankles had been crossed and bound in a similar fashion, so that her whole body was pulled taught as a bowstring. Her mouth was filled with a large rubber ball gag, preventing any outcry. While all of this was troubling, it was not nearly as troubling as what was above her.

The contraption resembled those silly “drinking bird” novelties with the long legs and the top hat. What made this one unusual – apart from it’s size – was the fact that the 10 foot tall plastic bird held a glistening blade in it’s beak. The blade looked like it could easily slice through Raccoon’s slender midsection…which is precisely where it was aimed!

“Ronk!” Raccoon turned her head to look at Ostrich, who had entered the room. “Good thing I had set a power feedback to protect the crystals, eh, my dear?” he said. “Sometimes it pays to be paranoid! It really is a shame you let your greed get the better of you, but I can’t waste time watching you when I’m this close to running this burg!”

“Mmmmmph! Hmmm ummm mmm ummmph!” Raccoon tried to apologize and win back the criminal’s trust, but the gag reduced her pleas to pathetic mewings.

Ostrich strolled over threw a switch on the leg of his bladed bird contraption. The mechanism slowly started to rock forward and back. “This is an old favorite,” he explained wistfully. “I’ve eliminated many enemies with this. The only one who’s ever escaped it is Gray Raven. Unfortunately for you, you’re NO Gray Raven!”

Raccoon bit down on her gag. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of trying to beg for her life.

“With each swing,” Ostrich explained, “the bird swings a little lower. Eventually, the blade will chop that lovely body of yours in half! It will be painful, but I think the best part is the waiting. Waiting for your inevitable death. Knowing that you are helpless to prevent the coming agony… Well, enjoy! After all, I have a ruby to steal. Now Goof and I will need to alter our plans…”

The psychopath wondered off, muttering to himself about all he had to do. Raccoon squirmed and tugged on her bonds, straining her supple muscles to their utmost. It was hopeless; there was no slack in the ropes at all. Whatever they were tied to, they were fastened in such a way that she couldn’t loosen them to create any slack. The gag was secure, the leather thong holding the ball deep in her mouth. But, even if she could get it out, there was nobody around this area at this time of night. She could expect no rescue.

The blade dipped closer towards her body. At the current rate of swing, Raccoon estimated perhaps 10 minutes until it sliced into her costume, and then her flesh. She had to get loose! She suddenly remembered her “claws”. Tiny bits of diamonds embedded in the tips of her gloves made it possible for her to cut through glass when necessary. Could she use it to cut through the ropes the same way? The ropes would give, and the cutters weren’t very big. Still, it was her only chance. Pulling as hard as she could to tighten the ropes, Raccoon began to run her right fingers along the strands, and hoped that he had the right angle.

She tried to twist her head to see what she was doing, but it was just too awkward. Instead, she closed her eyes and concentrated only on her hands. If she looked at the blade, if she thought about what was coming, she’d panic. If she panicked, she was doomed. Slowly, one by one, the stands of the rope began to part. How many were left? How much time did she have?

The blade lightly touched Rachel’s belly and rose again. Her rubbing and pulling took on a new urgency; the next pass would draw blood. Then, with a SNAP, the rope parted. Raccoon swung her body up and forward, somersaulting off the bottom end of the table. The blade passed through and touched the table before it swung back up. The alluring ex-con breathed a deep sigh of relief around her gag before she started to work on removing the rest of her bonds.

* * *

The deserted Fair Grounds seemed eerie. Raccoon hadn’t thought about it before, but it made sense. Subconsciously, she knew that this midway should have been crowded with people. In fact, it had been just hours ago. But, with the Ruby Fair closed for the night, it was empty. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right.

The beautiful burglar put the thoughts out of her mind. She had to move quickly. She had thought things through and had come up with one sure-fire plan to stop Goof from stealing the Ruby. She would steal it herself. After that, she could turn it over to the police and wait for Gray Raven to return and clean up the villains. She moved quickly through the shadows towards the main pavilion.

The pavilion was the one permanent structure on the grounds. It housed a few offices, the first aid station, the restrooms and, for cases like this, special display areas for valuable items. Raccoon was well acquainted with the security of the building, since she had stolen several tiaras from it a few years ago. She easily bypassed the alarm and slipped in through a vent.

Raccoon was secretly pleased at how easily it all came back to her. She dodged laser sensors, thwarted motion alarms and hung from the ceiling to bypass the pressure sensitive floor. The lock on the case was difficult; it took her almost a full minute to pick it. She removed a few wires that would activate another pressure alarm, this one if the gem was removed from the case, and lifted the fist-sized ruby from it’s pillow. A smile of satisfaction played across her luscious lips as she reversed her route to leave. She had done it! Goof was in for quite a shock when he saw, in tomorrow’s paper, that the gem he’d planned to steal had been stolen a day earlier!

“I think you have something that belongs to me.”

Raccoon whirled around, but she had recognized the voice. It was Goof!

“I think the museum would argue with that,” she said. “And really, I’ve got it, and you know what they say about possession…”

The supervillain’s usually jovial face was twisted in a hideous, psychotic grimace. “Yeah. If you want to posses the ability to draw another breath, don’t cross the Goof! Give me the ruby, Raccoon!”

Raccoon looked around her, desperately. At least Ostrich wasn’t here! Goof was deadly, but her legs were much longer. She was sure she could outrun him. Besides, she had a 20-foot head start! She blew the Goof a kiss, spun on her toes and darted down a nearby alley between the stands and tents.

What Raccoon hadn’t considered, however, was the possibility that Goof had been there a good time longer than she had thought. That maybe he wasn’t REALLY alone, but had placed his men in strategic locations. This idea didn’t occur to her until she turned a corner and ran smack into two henchmen!

It was true that Raccoon had made based her career more on her wits than her combat ability. This, however, didn’t mean that she was helpless in a fight. Her right leg drove a booted toe into the groin of one of the men. As he collapsed, the second man found his face being raked by the Raccoon’s claws. Blood poured into his eyes and he tripped over his fallen comrade.

The encounter had cost precious seconds. Raccoon hopped over the prone bodies to continue her flight. The second man, however, flailed his arm and managed, by sheer luck, to grab her ankle. Raccoon stumbled and went to her knees. She kicked him in the shoulder with her free foot, gaining her freedom. As she jumped up, however, she felt something wrap around her knees. It was Goof’s “yo-yo bolo.” She pitched forward again, and struggled to free her legs. At that moment, Goof showed up and swung a rubber chicken at her face. A shimmering powder exploded from the rubber beak, causing Raccoon’s body to go numb. Moments later, her mind followed.

* * *

Years ago, as a teenager, Rachel Sellers had volunteered at her high school carnival. She had been elected to sit on the perch in the dunk tank. It was a memory that had stuck with her for years, so that the platform that she was laying on was such a perch. There were, however, several noticeable differences.

First of all, when she was a girl she hadn’t been tied up and gagged. Now she was. More important, when she was a girl, there hadn't been a noose tied around her neck, the free end being lashed tightly to the rafters above. A slight dip in the rope indicated that Raccoon had a few inches of slack, but not much…and not nearly enough. If the perch on which she sat should suddenly give way, the pretty prowler would be hanged. She had to get loose! The curvaceous captive began to inspect her bindings.

Bright pink cords encircled the girl in strategic spots. It took her but a moment to recognize it as Krazy String, that stuff that sprays out of a can. However, Goof always used a special treatment on the Krazy String, making it as tough as a steel wire. Raccoon also wondered if Ostrich had told Goof about her escape from the warehouse, because her binds were much more stringent this time. Her arms had been pulled behind her, with bindings at her wrists and elbows holding them there. More of the String was wrapped around her torso, pinning her arms to her sides. Her legs were lashed tightly together, her ankles and knees practically melded together by the gooey pink substance. Her lips were sealed by a thick layer of the stuff, making it impossible for her to cry out - or to make a sound of any kind. Left alone, Raccoon knew that she wouldn't have anything to worry about. Goof's Krazy String always dissolved in about an hour. However, she seriously doubted that she would be given that time.

"Hoo hoo, lookie what I found!" The Goof walked in, almost on cue, pushing a strange, cannon-like devise. It looked vaguely familiar to Raccoon, but she couldn't quite place it. Then, as Goof pushed it into place, she noticed a wire bin filled with fuzzy greenish balls. It was a tennis ball cannon, the kind used to practice returning shots! Goof placed it on a line with the target for the dunk tank.

"I have to tell you, Raccoon, that I'm laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside. I took a chance for you! I told Ostrich that you'd be good for us to work with, and you made me look bad. So, I guess the only way for me to be laughing on the inside again is for me to make you all dead!"

If looks could kill, Raccoon would have eliminated the silly little man right then and there. Even if she hadn't been gagged, the woman wouldn't have wasted her time trying to beg for mercy or reason with Goof. Ostrich was psychotic, but Goof was just plain insane. He didn't reason, and he didn't feel emotions like pity.

"You seem like a bright girl, Miss R," the yellow-suited villain said. "So I won't waste your time or insult your intelligence by explaining my little impromptu death-trap. I'm sure you can figure it out. And, if not, you'll get a live demonstration. Toodles!"

He flipped the switch on the cannon, and it started to hum and chug. After a few seconds, a tennis ball shot from the tube, sailing through the air and missing the target by inches. Goof shrugged his shoulders and walked away. The cannon, which had been set on automatic, began to turn slowly and fired another ball.

Sooner or later, Raccoon knew, one of the balls would connect and drop her down into the pool below. The water wasn't deep; she could easily stand in it and not drown. The noose, however, made sure that she would be dead before she ever hit the water. That being the case, the noose had to go.

People who didn't know better thought that Raccoon played too much on her good looks and sexy body. Why else would she wear spiked heels? The truth, however, was that the heels concealed several tools of the girl's former trade. She shifted her legs up under her butt, and worked her fingertips against her right heel. Slowly, she was able to slide a slender blade from its position. She glanced at the ball cannon; the shots were getting closer. She had to hurry.

Years of yoga had left Rachael Sellers very flexible. She used that now as she pressed her hands to the floor, balancing on her arms, shoulders and head. She lifted her body upward, so that she was parallel to the rope. Then she wrapped her left foot around the rope and started to slowly saw at the noose with the blade that was sticking from her heel.

It seemed to take an eternity. How thick WAS this damned rope? Raccoon fought to keep her breathing smooth and even. If she started to panic, she'd never be able to stay balanced. If she lost her balance, she'd hang. It was a frightening simple equation. And in the background she heard the steady "Thump - thump - thump" of balls being fired at the target and hitting the backdrop.

Until she heard a "thump - CLANG!" The target had been hit! Raccoon barely had time for this notion to register in her brain before the trap door opened beneath her. She hadn't made it! She felt a jerk from the rope, but not around her neck. Instead, the jerk came from the foot that was wrapped around the cord. This was followed by a snapping sound. The next thing Raccoon knew, she was under water.

She must have weakened the rope enough that her weight had snapped it. Now she just had to keep from drowning. The bound beauty twisted her lithe, athletic body in the water, getting her feet under her and pressing herself into a standing position. Now all she had to do was wait for the String to dissolve, and then she was going after those two maniacs.

* * *

Raccoon was slightly surprised to find her quarry still at the old frozen foods warehouse. When she stopped to think about it, however, she realized that they'd have no reason to leave. They were sure that she was still a criminal, who just got greedy, so there'd be no fear of her calling the police. Besides, they thought she was dead, so they didn't have to worry about her trying to steal their stones again. As long as Gray Raven was out of town, they must have felt completely safe.

Raccoon considered calling the police, but she was concerned. The police were good at their jobs, but no match for these supercriminals. Besides, if Ostrich and Goof had their brainwashing machine working, the WORST thing she could do is send the police into the lion's den. Once the police were on their side, the criminals would truly be unstoppable. The last reason was completely selfish. Those two had tried to kill her twice tonight. She wanted to be there when they went down.

Never one to use the same entrance twice, Raccoon slipped in via a basement window this time. She found herself in a large storage area, and moved quickly through the musty room towards the steps. Small infrared lenses in her eye mask allowed her to see as clearly as if it were a dusky evening, instead of pitch black. That was the only reason she was able to spot the fuse box. If her lenses gave her that much of an advantage over her foes, she had an excellent chance to defeat them! She raced over and ripped out all the fuses, throwing them throughout the room. Then, with the building plunged into darkness, Raccoon raced up the stairs.

The villains' main lair was in total disarray. Ostrich's nasal voice and Goof's high-pitched giggles cut through the noise, demanding to know what was going on and insisting that someone restore the lights. Sounds of henchmen calling to each other and cursing as the bumped into things formed an undercurrent to the cacophony. There was the occasional crash as something was knocked over, followed by an especially long and loud bout of cursing. Raccoon moved through it all effortlessly.

She picked up a fire extinguisher and moved into position behind Ostrich. She brought the heavy metal cylinder down on his head with all her might. The lanky lunatic gave out a quick, nasal cry before he dropped to the floor. She picked up her makeshift weapon and turned towards Goof, but he was backing away.

"Mr. O!" he yelled. "What was that? Are you okay?"

No, and you won't be either, Rachel thought. Suddenly, however, she found herself pinned in the beam of a flashlight!

"Raccoon!" Goof gasped. "What'd you do to Mr. O? Get her, GET HER!"

As drastically outnumbered as she was, Raccoon decided that discretion was the better part of valor. She dove from the beam of light, and started running towards the nearest exit.

Goof, however, had other plans. He threw and handful of marbles in the direction of Raccoon's footsteps. At least, they looked like marbles. However, they started to flash, smoke and explode all around her. She stumbled, her foot actually stepping on one of the little spheres. She lost her balance and fell. A trio of henchmen quickly piled on top of her. She was overpowered until the moment that the fourth minion got the lights working again.

Goof shook Ostrich. "Mr. O? Mr. O?" He turned to the henchmen. "Tie her up…TIGHT! Mr. O and I will deal with her when he wakes up. And if she escapes, we'll do to YOU what we had planned for her, so be careful!"

Unnerved by the threat, the henchmen were beyond careful. One of them suggested stripping Raccoon naked, but they settled on removing her gloves and boots and frisking her completely, instead. Then they stuffed a wadded up cloth in her mouth, and stretched some duct tape over it. They completed the gag with another heavy cloth, tied around her head to muffle any sounds.

Next, they tied Raccoon's wrists to her thighs. Rope around her body held her arms tight to her sides. Her ankles were bound tightly together, with ropes added to her thighs just above her knees, and her calves just below them. She was helpless. However, the panicked criminals didn't stop there. One of them brought over a roll of the clear plastic wrap used to secure cartons for transport. It resembled a giant roll of Saran Wrap, and worked the same way. Two layers of this went over the ropes, mummifying Raccoon in a plastic casing from her shoulders to her ankles. She was then stood up against a post in the center of the room and more plastic wrap was used to secure her to it. A few more turns of rope added to the bindings holding her to the pole. Raccoon could only move her head from side to side. As she waited for her fate, she wondered if her luck had finally run out.

After what seemed like an eternity, Goof game into the room. He was being followed by Ostrich, who was somewhat unsteady on his feet. In fact, the villain was actually leaning on his ever-present walking stick, something nobody had ever seen him do before. When he saw Raccoon, he stopped and glared at her.

“You bitch,” he said softly. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but I don’t care, either. We’re done playing games. No more fancy death traps for you. Just death!”

He and Goof stood next to each other. Goof pulled a long purple gun from his jacket. Ostrich touched a stud on his walking stick, and a trigger appeared out of the side, with a targeting sight opposite.

“Mmmmph muummmmpphh mmmmmmm!” Raccoon said defiantly. She wished she felt as brave as she tried to sound. The truth however, was that she was terrified. She had started her criminal career because she loved jewelry and adventure. It was never supposed to be dangerous. She didn’t want to die!

“Ready,” Ostrich said. “Aim.” Twin laser sights sprang from the weapons he and Goof held. One red dot appeared over Raccoon’s heart. The other was in the center of her forehead.

Ostrich licked his lips before giving the command to fire. The command never came.

The window of the room exploded inward. The shards of glass were followed by a much bigger shape. It was a man, dressed in a gray uniform that highlighted his muscles. A dark gray cape, resembling bird wings, flowed from his shoulders. The cowl he wore had been designed to suggest the head of a large bird. There was a black, wing-like design on his chest, and on the buckle of his wide yellow belt. Gray Raven had arrived!

The hero exploded into his foes. The four henchmen hesitated until Ostrich screamed, “Get him!” But the thugs were no match for Gray Raven. Those that he didn’t kick or punch into oblivion were felled by the some of the many gadgets in the hero’s weapons belt. Finally, a roundhouse kick took Goof out of the action. As Ostrich raised his weapon at Raccoon once more, Gray Raven landed a right cross that literally lifted the criminal off his feet. He landed again some four feet from his starting point, and didn’t get back up.

Gray Raven turned to Raccoon and smiled grimly as he pulled a knife from his belt. “I have to admit, Rachel, this is one way to keep you out of trouble that I never considered.”

As he slashed away the bindings, Raccoon found it hard to stand. Gray Raven held her in his left arm, while he finished freeing her with his right.

“I’m glad you tried to do the right thing,” he commented as he removed the multi-layer gag, “but from now on you should leave the crime-fighting to professionals.”

Once her mouth was free, Raccoon replied by grabbing Gray Raven and kissing him hard. After a few surprised seconds, he started to kiss her back, his tongue probing her mouth as he held her to his solid chest.

As suddenly as it began, the kiss ended. Gray Raven spun away and hurled his grapple line out the window. He paused only long enough to smile at her and say, “Maybe I’ll see you again.”

Rachel knew what a smile like that meant, and she knew there was no “maybe” about it. She would be seeing him in the near future, under less dangerous conditions. As she called the police and retrieved her boots and gloves, her mind swam with the possibilities. Maybe she had been hasty to put her suit away the first time. Maybe Gray Raven needed a full-time partner in crimefighting…and in other things! Only time would tell.