“W-who are you?” Adelaide’s voice was unintentionally high pitched.
“Ah! I am sorry,” the voice in her head hissed apologetically, “how rude of me. My name is Julian. Julian Hex. Pleased to meet you Adelaide.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Isn’t it obvious? My dear I am a mind-reader, much like your friend Mr Richards. Hi there Lee. I’d heard about you and I must say I’ve been very much looking forward to finally getting to meet you.”
Francis looked over at Lee, wide-eyed.
“I didn’t know you could speak in people’s minds,” he whispered.
“I can’t,” Lee said, “this guy’s a pro.” He raised his voice, “I can feel you in here dude. Not cool man!”
“I’m sorry, but there’s not much else I can do,” Julian’s voice was apologetic, “you’re right, I’ve got the full suite of psychic powers, but unfortunately they come at a bit of a price.”
There was movement from beneath them. A figure walked out from beneath the gantry. He wore a suit, with a hood and cloak over the top. His head was covered. Peter, the young man with the glasses, shuffled about nervously as Julian turned around and looked up at the gantry spreading his arms wide.
“Come down, please,” his voice echoed in their heads, “I just want to talk with you! I must say I’m a huge fan of this whole thing you’ve got going. Such a great idea!”
“We make a point of not talking to creepy cloaked figures,” Emma shouted down angrily, “show yourself.”
“If you want,” Julian said, “don’t say I didn’t warn you. Did I warn you? I feel like I’ve warned you. Well. Too late now.”
He pulled down his hood. The gantry shook dangerously as there was a desperate scramble backwards in surprise and horror. Julian had no face. Instead a mass of thin tendrils writhed like a swarm of snakes around his head. In the centre of this quivering horde of tentacles a single gaping mouth hung open. Serrated teeth ringed the mouth, making it look like that of a lamprey.
“Handsome devil aren’t I?” Julian gurgled in their heads, “as you can see I have no eyes, ears or nose. To see the world, to sense the things around me, I must use my mind. As for speech, my mouth is not adept at forming English words. I have to use this… regrettable method of conversation. Hope you don’t mind.”
There was a long, frightened silence.
“Oh come on! You wanted to see me!” Julian’s tone was reproachful, “now you have. Don’t worry, I don’t want to harm you, just to talk. Trust me if I wanted you hurt, you’d be hurt.”
Adelaide looked down at him over the gantry rail.
“That fills me with confidence,” she said, “listen you, don’t think we didn’t just hear what you were talking about. You’re selling protection to super-humans in the city. What they don’t know is that you caused the murder they’re so worried about.”
Julian raised his hands in mock horror.
“What me?” He said, “Honestly I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Entirely harmless, I assure you. Listen, come down here and I’ll let your friend read my mind. Then you’ll see I have absolutely no evil tricks up my sleeve.”
Adelaide turned to Lee and raised her eyebrows.
“Can’t you read him from here?” She said.
“No,” Lee shook his head, “too far away. Bedsides he’s a psychic too, and stronger than me. I can’t if he doesn’t want me to.”
Adelaide thought about things for a few moments. Then she looked down at Julian.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” she shouted.
A few minutes later, Lee dangled just above the warehouse floor. He was held by the feet by Lydia, who was being held by the feet by Francis. He was being held by Emma and Adelaide together on the balustrade. The whole human chain swung back and forth precariously.
“You know,” Lee said from below, “I really don’t thing this is such a great idea.”
“Stop whining,” Emma replied, “this way we can pull you out of harm’s way if he tries anything.”
“I know how you feel Lee,” Julian walked over to him, “I myself have been in similar situations more times than I can count.”
Reaching Lee, Julian dropped to one knee so he was at eye level. Or would have been, had he had eyes…
“Your head is even more gross close up,” Lee said.
“Charming,” came Julian’s reply. Then he lunged. Lee’s shout of surprise was suddenly and horribly muffled as hundreds of Julian’s tentacles swarmed his face. They went up his nose and into his mouth and ears. Lee’s arms jiggled around frantically for a few seconds, then went limp.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” shouted Lydia, her voice hysterical, “pull us up, pull us up, pull us up, pull us up right now!”
Adelaide, who hadn’t seen Julian’s lunge, got the message. She nodded frantically at Emma and they started to drag Francis up. Unfortunately he had become somewhat panicked by whatever the hell was going on below, and suddenly he became intangible. The human chain disintegrated with a series of screams, its components tumbling into the warehouse.
Julian was knocked to the ground by Lee as he fell, his tentacles still enmeshed in his face. He pulled himself to his feet quickly, retracting them. He was about to turn away when Lydia, who had got up with surprising speed, punched him in the head. There was a mental gurgle and Julian’s whole body went rigid. Then he swept up his arm and Lydia was lifted from her feet before falling unceremoniously to the ground.
Francis, who had also stood up, lunged at Julian. This time, however, the psychic was ready and Francis let out a gasp of surprise and pain before falling to the floor, hands clutching his head.
Adelaide had rushed to the ladder and slid down it, quickly followed by Emma. She spun and brought her hands up, balled into fists. She suddenly regretted not bringing her cricket bat.
“Come on then,” she hissed at Julian. His tentacles writhed.
“If you insist.”