“Gentlemen, thank you for coming today. Such a prestigious group of the world’s greatest criminal masterminds the world has truly never seen, nor shall it ever with our skill at evading the law. Most of you are probably wondering why I’ve asked you all to this meeting and why I’ve insisted on such secrecy and I… the chair recognises Wan Tring of the Hong Kong triads.”

“Thank you Doctor Maniac. I am Wan Tring. Most here are not Wan Tring.”

“Right. Wondering. Won-der-ing. Not Wan Tring. Can I continue? Thank you. I have asked you to this… the chair recognises El Diablo.”

“Is this one of those meetings where you kill anyone who dissents with you?”

“No! No! Where do you get these ideas?”

“I steal movies. I watch movies. Do these chairs slide down into a pit of spikes and fire?”

“What pit? This is clearly a laminated floor and we’re on the third storey of this building. You came past the floor below on the way here. You had the tour. Do you remember the office staff? The pretty secretary with the big you-know-whats? People, please! Can I get to the point of this meeting? Oh, for fu… the chair recognises Minister Montezuma.”

“I have a dentist’s appointment at three. Will this meeting take long?”

“Let’s… start again. And please: no interruptions. Oh… Minister Montezuma, again?”

“It’s just that it’s about an hour’s drive and I need to get there early to fill in some paperwork. I would really like to leave by one thirty.”

“You can leave at one thirty. That’s not a problem. Gentlemen, I’ve…”

“I will leave at the same time as the Minister. Unless the Minister doesn’t want that!”

“El Diablo, why would the…”

“My friend El Diablo, you may do whatever you please.”

“What’s going on with you two?”

“There’s nothing going on but let’s just say that I think we should all leave together or not at all.”

“Is this something from one of your movies again?”

“We have seen this movie in Hong Kong too. Wan Tring Enterprises has imported many copies. Good film. Robert Vaughn.”

“I wish you would take this meeting seriously.”

“You’re thinking of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

“Can we please stop talking about films?”

“Many apologies. Perhaps it is a common theme.”

“Really, please, please can we get back on track here? I’ve only booked the Death Room until four.”

“Aha! You are trying to kill us Maniac!”

“I am not! It’s named after the architect, Francis Death. He’s responsible for the unique lintels you see over there and the rosewood panelling designs. You people are… what now?”

“You haven’t forgotten that I want to leave at one thirty.”

“How the hell could I have forgotten? You’ve only barely finished… that’s not even for another two and a quarter hours anyway!”

“It’s just we don’t even know what this meeting’s about or how long it will go on for.”

“What!? I have been trying to tell you since you all got here. At least Lord Chaoticon has been quiet; the rest of you…”

“I think Lord Chaoticon is asleep.”

“He’s what?”

“To be fair, he’s probably jetlagged. And he did just mastermind stealing a nuclear sub from the Iranians. I think he was up until the early hours of the morning on Thursday and then flew straight here. It’s a nine hour flight.”

“You people are unbelievable.”

“Oh! He stole the submarine? I thought it was Papa Odessa and the Fingernail Gang.”

“No, they’ve been retired for over a year now. Papa has opened a bike repair shop on the Windward Islands. It’s what he always wanted.”

“Retired! Retired? That sounds like a great idea right now. That’s it, you lot have driven me to distraction. I’m out of this business for good. Let yourselves out. You can leave now or at one thirty or whenever the hell you like and you can all go separately or together. I. Don’t. Care. Goodbye.”

“What’s all the shouting about?”

“Lord Chaoticon’s awake!”

“Come back Doctor Maniac! Lord Chaoticon’s awake.”

“I was just resting my eyes.”

* * *

“Your meeting has finished early Doctor Maniac.”

“Yes it has Julie. Can you call down to the canteen and get them to send up some coffee? And can you hunt down some headache tablets too?”

“Right away Doctor Maniac. Did you manage to arrange anything for your wife’s surprise birthday?”

“No, no I didn’t. Can you also switch on the electric seals to the Death Room and release the poison gas while you’re at it too?”

“Right away Doctor Maniac. Will there be anything else?”

“I think we should just give the Science Team the go-ahead for Operation Lunar Volcano – liaise with Sharon on that – and can you draw me up a shortlist of party organisers? I think that’ll be all. Thank you.”

“Right away Doctor Maniac.”

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