'We must go wherever we're needed,' Dylan agreed. 'No gloves, no hesitation, no fear.'
'Plenty of fear,' Jilly disagreed. 'But we can't ever surrender to it.'
'That's better said,' Dylan complimented her.
As Ling poured more Cabernet, an airliner crossed Tahoe at high altitude, perhaps en route to the airport in Reno. If night on the lake had not been silent except for the knocking of the moon coins against the hull, they might have failed to hear the faint exhalation of the jet engines. Looking up, Jilly saw a tiny winged silhouette cross the lunar face.
'One thing I'm grateful for,' said Parish. 'We won't have all the trouble of designing, building, and maintaining a damn Batplane or Batmobile.'
Laughter felt good.
'Being tragic figures with the world on our shoulders might not be so bad,' Dylan decided, 'if we can have some fun at it.'
'Great fun,' Parish declared. 'Oh, I insist upon it. I'd rather we didn't give ourselves silly names with heroic flair, since I've already done damage of that kind to myself, but I'm up for anything else that comes to mind.'
Jilly hesitated as she was about to sip her wine. 'You mean Parish Lantern isn't your real name?'
'Would it be anyone's? It's my legal name now, but I was born Horace Bloogernud.'
'Good lord,' said Dylan. 'You were something of a tragic figure from day one.'
'As a teenager, I wanted to go into radio, and I knew the kind of show I hoped to create. A late-night program concerned mostly with strange and spooky stuff. It seemed that Parish Lantern would serve me well, since it's an old English term for the moon, for moonlight.'
'You do your work by the light of the moon,' Shepherd said, but without the anguish that had wrenched his voice when he had spoken these words previously, as if they meant something new to him now.
'Indeed I do,' Parish told Shep. 'And in a way, we'll all be doing our great work by the light of the moon, in the sense that we will try to do as much of it as possible with discretion and a sense of secrecy. Which brings me to the subject of disguises.'
'Disguises?' Jilly asked.
'Fortunately,' said Parish, 'the fact that I've been cursed like you isn't known to anyone but us. As long as I can do what must be done and enjoy my share of derring-do, while keeping my secret, I can be the interface between our little group and the world. But you three – your faces are widely known, and no matter what care we take to operate discreetly, your images will become more universally recognized as time passes. Therefore you will have to become—'
'Masters of disguise!' Dylan said with delight.
This, too, Jilly decided, was as it should be.
'When all is said and done,' Parish continued, 'about all we'll be lacking are silly heroic names, cumbersome vehicles full of absurd gadgets, spandex costumes, and an archvillain to worry about between all the ordinary rescues and good deeds.'
'Ice,' said Shepherd.
Ling at once approached the table, but with a few Chinese words, Parish assured him that no ice was needed. 'Shepherd is correct. We did in fact have an archvillain for a little while, but now he's just a block of ice.'
Later, over lemon cake and coffee, Jilly said, 'If we don't call ourselves something, the media will give us a name, and it's sure to be stupid.'
'You're right,' Dylan said. 'They aren't imaginative. And then we'll have to live with something that makes us grind our teeth. But why don't we use a collective name, something that applies to all of us as a group?'
'Yeah,' Jilly agreed. 'And let's be as sneaky-clever as Horace Bloogernud was in his day. Let's use moonlight in the name.'
'The Moonlight Gang,' Dylan suggested. 'Has the right tabloid ring, doesn't it?'
'I don't like the gang part,' said Parish. 'Too many negative connotations with that one.'
'The Moonlight... something,' Jilly brooded.
Although half his cake remained on his plate, Shepherd put down his fork. Staring at this treat postponed, he said, 'Squad, crew, band, ring, society—'
'Here we go,' Dylan said.
'—guild, alliance, association, team, coalition, clan, outfit, league, club—'
'The Moonlight Club.' Jilly played the three words across her tongue. 'The Moonlight Club. That's not half bad.'
'—fellowship, company, troop, posse, family—'
'I assume this will take a while,' said Parish, and indicated to Ling that the time had come to remove three of the four dessert plates and to uncork another bottle of wine.
'—travelers, voyagers, riders—'
Listening with one ear to the good Shepherd's cascade of words, Jilly dared to think about their future, about destiny and free will, about mythology and truth, about dependency and responsibility, about the certainty of death and the desperate need to live with purpose, about love and duty, and hope.
The sky is deep. The stars lie far away. The moon is nearer than Mars but still distant. The lake is a lustrous black, enlivened by the mercurial light of the parish lantern. The vessel rocks gently at anchor. The Moonlight Club, or whatever it eventually will be called, conducts its first meeting with serious intent, laughter, and cake, beginning what all its members hope will be a long exploration of the round and round of all that is.